MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine men's national football team is downplaying the significance of their continued rise in the FIFA world rankings ahead of their campaign in the AFF Suzuki Cup later this month.
In the latest rankings released by football's governing body, the Philippine Azkals rose to 143rd place, up four places from their ranking last October. It is the Azkals' highest ever rating by FIFA.
"I think we should be happy that we can improve our rankings in the last two years, but we shouldn’t be obsessed over our rankings," Azkals coach Hans Michael Weiss said during a press conference Wednesday night at the Richmonde Hotel.
"Rankings reflect current status, not the strength of the team in general," Weiss explained. "Some teams, they choose not to play matches and then they automatically drop in the ranking."
"We played a lot of matches and we took advantage of that," he added.
The Azkals had a decent campaign in October, holding higher-ranked Bahrain to a goalless draw in a FIFA international friendly before losing to Kuwait, 1-2.
Weiss said the team definitely grew stronger, but they still cannot underestimate their opponents in the Suzuki Cup, especially as they were drawn into the "Group of Death."
The Philippines are grouped with hosts Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. They will open their campaign against Thailand, ranked 146th by FIFA, on November 24.
Even though they are now rated higher than their Thai opponents, the Azkals insist it will not make a difference come game time.
"I don't think the world ranking really makes a difference, because on the day, it depends on what team you bring," said Azkals striker Phil Younghusband.
Younghusband concedes that their rise in the FIFA ratings gives them a psychological boost.
"I think for our confidence and psychologically, we know Philippine football is still growing and still rising," he said.
"Knowing how far we've come in the last two years from 160-something to 140-something now, hopefully we can carry on making that progress."
"But I don't think it makes a difference in the day of the game. Psychologically, it does show the progress of Philippine football," Younghusband added.