KARACHI: The twin defeats to Cambodia over the last week in the first round of the joint qualifiers of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the 2023 AFC Asian Cup have seen Pakistan fall to an all-time low of 205 in the FIFA rankings, becoming Asia’s worst-ranked team in the process.

The rankings released by the global football body on Friday saw Pakistan drop five places following their 4-1 defeat on aggregate over two legs to Cambodia. Pakistan lost the first leg 2-0 in Phnom Penh before being beaten 2-1 in the return game played in Doha.

The match was played in Doha because the Pakistan team taking part in the qualifiers — mostly featuring diaspora players — was sent by Faisal Saleh Hayat, who is recognised as Pakistan’s football chief by FIFA but not locally where the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is headed by Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah who came into power after an election ordered by the Supreme Court in December last year.

Previously, Pakistan’s worst position in the rankings was 203, to which it fell to last year due to crisis off the pitch. Pakistan played their first match in almost three years when they took part in the SAFF Championship last year with the officials of the Hayat-led federation turning to Pakistani diaspora players in a bid to improve their FIFA ranking.

The losses to Cambodia show that their moves haven’t had the desired effect and Pakistan is expected to fall further down the rankings with the first-round exit in the qualifiers meaning they will be without competitive matches over the next four years.

The victory for Cambodia meant they jumped up four spots to 169th.

The biggest movers in the rankings among Asia’s 12 worst-ranked teams that took part in the first round of qualifiers were Malaysia who soared nine rungs to 159th spot after drubbing Timor-Leste 12-2 on aggregate. Bangladesh who overcame Laos moved up five places to 183rd.

On the other side of the rankings, apart from Uzbekistan replacing Syria as Asia’s 10th-highest ranked team the other top 10 from the April rankings remained unchanged with top-ranked Iran rising one place to make a rare appearance for an Asian team in the top 20.

Iran defeated Syria 5-0 last week and were held to a 1-1 draw against South Korea five days later in Seoul in two friendly matches under coaching of newly-appointed trainer Marc Wilmots.

Behind Iran, Japan moved down two spots to 28th and South Korea remained unchanged at 37th. Australia moved down two places to 43rd while Asian champions and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar were unchanged at 55th.

The Asian Football Confederation will use this month’s rankings for draw seedings in the second round of World Cup qualifying groups. The draw for five-team groups will be made next month in Doha. The other teams in Pot 1 will be United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and China.

AGENCIES ADD: Elsewhere, Portugal climbed two places to fifth after adding the inaugural Nations League title to their European Championship crown as Fernando Santos’ side leapfrogged Croatia and Uruguay.

Portugal beat the Netherlands 1-0 in the final in Porto thanks to a second-half strike from Goncalo Guedes, after a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick had seen them past Switzerland in the semis.

The Dutch, who failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and last year’s World Cup, also gained two spots, rising to a tie for 14th.

Belgium remain atop the rankings ahead of world champions France after back-to-back 3-0 wins over Kazakhstan and Scotland in Euro 2020 qualifying.

Copa America hosts Brazil, and England complete an unchanged top four in the standings published Friday.

World Cup runners-up Croatia fell one spot to sixth and Spain rose two to seventh with Uruguay, Switzerland and Denmark at eighth, ninth and tenth respectively. Germany are up two places to 11th, tied with Argentina. Italy rose three places to 14th.

Mexico are 18th ahead of the Gold Cup kicking off Saturday. The United States dropped six places to 30th.

Senegal, at 22nd, are Africa’s best ahead of the African Cup of Nations kicking off on June 21.

FIFA publishes the next rankings on July 25 after the continental championships in South and North America, and Africa.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2019

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