New Delhi, May 4 (IANS) The Indian football team has made it into the top 100 of the FIFA world rankings for the first time in 21 years.
As per the updated rankings, released on Thursday, the Stephen Constantine-coached side has climbed a rung and is now placed at the 100th spot along with Nicaragua, Lithuania and Estonia.
The last time India were in the top 100 of the rankings was in 1996, with the 94th spot in February 1996 being the country's best ever FIFA ranking.
India had made a big jump in last month's rankings to rise to the 101st spot due to triumphs over Cambodia and Myanmar in March, both away wins.
India had clinched a 1-0 victory over Myanmar in the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers on March 28 -- the first ever win in Myanmar in over 64 years.
The Indian team had also recorded their first ever win in an away encounter in over a decade when they defeated Cambodia 3-2 in an international friendly.
They had also registered a 4-1 win against Central American opponents Puerto Rico in an international friendly.
Although the Indian team did not play any matches during official FIFA dates in April, the one spot rise came about due to African nation Malawi dropped a staggering 42 points since the last world rankings were announced.
The Indian team have secured victories in 11 of their last 13 matches including an unofficial match against Bhutan, scoring 31 goals in the process.
India will next face Lebanon in an international friendly on June 7, ahead of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying clash against Kyrgyzstan on June 13.
Congratulating the national team, Indian football icon I.M. Vijayan hailed India's entry into the top 100 of the FIFA rankings, saying the side languished too low for a long time and these are signs of improvement which hold promise for the future.
"It's great news. We have been lying low for too long a period. It was time we did something about it and Stephen Constantine (India coach) has done a good job so far," Vijayan told IANS over phone.
"During our time the best we got was 95. I'm happy the team is winning away and rankings have shot up considerably," the ace striker who played for East Bengal and Mohun Bagan and was one of the key members of the India team at the peak of his career, added.
All India Football Federation (AIFF) General Secretary Kushal Das said rankings are at times a "mathematical game" and the team needs to improve in their minds and keep on winning games.
"It's a mathematical game at times," Das told IANS.
"Rankings are not always a true reflection of form. It's definitely important as it helps us play better opponents in friendlies. But we need to improve in our minds and believe that we can keep on winning football matches," Das added.
Meanwhile, Brazil remained at the top of the latest FIFA world rankings. Bitter South American rivals Argentina continued in second place, while World Cup winner Germany stayed in third, followed by Chile in fourth.
Colombia found themselves at fifth, while the French national team came on sixth. Belgium, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain complete the top 10 of the FIFA rankings.
Iran continued to be the highest ranked country in Asia as they held on to the 28th spot.
South was next at the 43rd position while Japan was one rung below at 44th.
Australia was next at 50th followed by Saudi Arabia (52nd), Uzbekistan (60th) and United Arab Emirates (75th).