The Indian men’s football team on Thursday climbed to the 100th spot in the latest FIFA world rankings — their best rating in more than two decades.
Despite having a population of well over one billion, India languishes as a footballing minnow, ranked equally alongside Nicaragua, Lithuania and Estonia in a global table headed by Brazil.
India — where the national pastime of cricket is something of an obsession that squeezes other sports out of the running — last made the top 100 in 1996, reaching an all-time high of 94, before plunging.
The boost in ranking comes after India beat Cambodia 3-2 in Phnom Penh on March 22 in a friendly clash before edging out Myanmar 1-0 in Yangon on March 28 during an AFC Asian Cup qualifying match.
Head coach Stephen Constantine congratulated his side on the milestone, but warned them against complacency ahead of important matches.
“As long as we keep heading up the ladder I am happy. It points out that we are heading in the right direction,” the 54-year-old Englishman was quoted as saying by the All India Football Federation (AIFF).
“There are major matches ahead and we cannot take things lightly. There’s no place for complacency,” said Constantine, who took charge of the Indian team in 2015.
India will play a friendly against Lebanon on June 7 and then an Asian Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan on June 13.
The team has won 11 of their last 13 matches, including an unofficial match against Bhutan, scoring 31 goals in the process.
“It’s pleasing that we are presently ranked 100. At the same time, we need to stay aware of the challenge in hand. The AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers UAE 2019 are an acid test for us,” said Kushal Das, AIFF general secretary.