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Idle Azkals climb FIFA Rankings to start 2016 on a positive note



Entering the new year, the Philippines men’s national football team moved up by four notches in the latest release of the 2016 FIFA World Rankings. The Filipinos now place 135th in the world, a slight improvement from last month’s 139th place.

The Azkals, like most teams, had no games in the previous month. licking the wounds of heartbreaking defeats suffered against Middle Eastern sides Bahrain and Yemen. Before those setbacks came an inspiring goalless draw result away against North Korea, a team that enjoyed relative success in the past six years.

The current rankings tabulate the progress of each member nation in the past four years, with every recent year bearing heavier coefficients in the calculation. Having said that, the Azkals registered three wins, four losses and a draw in the whole of 2015. Seven of those nine matches were in the qualifiers where they have a seven-point haul inside six games, by far the best tally ever recorded by a Philippine team in the group stages.

The Azkals may no longer qualify into the next round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, but they still have the opportunity of reaching the AFC Asian Cup 2019 via the upcoming qualifying rounds. Anything but a last-placed finish in Group G assures the Azkals progress into the continental cup qualifiers. At the moment, the Azkals are third in the group, four points clear of last placed Yemen.

Unless a friendly match will be scheduled before the last week of March, the Philippines will see action for the first time this year in that period,concluding a difficult second round of the joint World Cup and Asian Cup Qualifiers. The trip to Uzbekistan will kick off a festive year that will also see the country host the 2016 Suzuki ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup later in the year.

With a positive start to the calendar year and the start of the domestic season just around the corner, the Azkals will use anything in their favor to vitally pick up momentum heading into a busy 2016.

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