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Pakistan become Asia’s lowest-ranked football team [Dawn]

Pakistan become Asia’s lowest-ranked football team [Dawn]

KARACHI: Pakistan became Asia’s worst football team when they plummeted to an all-time low of 201st in the FIFA rankings on Thursday.

The new rankings list, for the month of April, represents a fall of three places from last month for Pakistan.

Pakistan were ranked 198th in February and March, having started the year at 197th.

They are now four places behind Sri Lanka in Asia and there are just 10 countries between them and rock-bottom in the overall standings.

The game in the country has suffered over the last year with the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) having split into two factions following a bitter dispute ahead of the presidential election in June 2015.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) has since ruled that Faisal Saleh Hayat, the man who is recognised as PFF president by world’s football governing body FIFA, is no longer the country’s football chief and ordered fresh elections.

The national team’s last match was a 2018 World Cup qualifier against Yemen in March 2015.

Defeat in that two-legged first-round playoff effectively ruled out competitive matches for the national team for the next four years.

Adding to the misery, the Hayat faction has since pulled Pakistan out of the 2015 SAFF Suzuki Cup and the inaugural edition of the AFC Solidarity Cup in November last year.

The FIFA ranking is calculated by taking into account the team’s results in competitive and friendly matches over a four-year period.

While Pakistan’s dismal fall continued, arch-rivals and India achieved their best-ever ranking in two decades as they jumped 31 places to 101 — marking a gulf of a 100 places between them and their bitter neighbours.

India’s highest-ever ranking was 94, attained in February 1994.

Among other teams of the SAFF region, Maldives are ranked 151st with Bhutan 164th, Nepal 170th and Bangladesh on 193.

Agencies add: Meanwhile, five-time world champions Brazil have returned to what they will consider their rightful place at the top of the FIFA rankings for the first time in seven years, made all the sweeter as they usurped great rivals Argentina.

Brazil have enjoyed a impressive revival since Tite replaced Dunga as their national team coach last year, winning all nine matches they have played under his leadership including eight World Cup qualifiers.

They continued their run in March with a 4-1 win in Uruguay and 3-0 win over Paraguay to become the first side to book their place at next year’s World Cup in Russia with four games to spare.

Brazil previously led the rankings going into the 2010 World Cup where they were eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarter-finals.

Since then, Neymar and Brazil have suffered a string of embarrassments, with elimination by Paraguay at successive Copa America tournaments in 2011 and 2015 and their infamous 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semi-final.

Brazil dominated the world rankings throughout the last two decades but slumped to a record low of 22nd in 2013.

Their new surge is in contrast to Argentina and Neymar’s Barcelona team-mate Lionel Messi, whose country are in danger of missing out on next year’s World Cup after last week’s 2-0 defeat in Bolivia.

They will not be able to call on their star man for three of their four remaining qualification matches because of suspension.

Four of the top five teams in the rankings announcement by FIFA, are from South America. Chile are fourth, Colombia fifth and Germany sandwiched in between in third.

South American teams tallied more ranking points last month by playing two World Cup qualifiers. European teams played one.

European champions Portugal are eighth, while Switzerland enter the top 10, up to ninth, with former number ones Spain clinging on in 10th.

Mexico rose one to 16th and lead CONCACAF teams. Egypt are Africa’s best-placed team in 19th while Asia’s top side are 28th-placed Iran.

World Cup hosts Russia fell one to 61st.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2017

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