The Indian football team has re-entered the top-100 of the FIFA world rankings and is now placed at 99th at the latest chart released on Thursday.
The team, which did not play any international match in this ranking period, jumped three places to enter the top-100 for the first time this year. It now has 339 points to its kitty to be at joint 99th spot with Libya.
Last year, the Indian team broke into the top-100 three times, rising as high as 96th in July -- the second best ever after the 94th place attained in February 1996. But it ended the year at 105th spot.
Among Asian countries, the Indian team is now at 13th spot, above the likes of Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain and North Korea.
Iran (overall 33rd) leads the rankings among Asian countries, followed by Australia (37th) and Japan (55th).
World champions Germany remain on the top of the overall chart, followed by Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, France and Chile.
The Indian team plays their AFC Asian Cup qualifier match against Kyrgyz Republic in Bishkek on March 27. The country has already qualified for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup.
I-League sides Churchill & Gokulam enter Super Cup final round
I-League teams Churchill Brothers and Gokulam Kerala notched up victories against their repective Indian Super League sides to enter the final round of the inaugural Super Cup football tournament in Bhubaneswar.
Churchill rode on Trinidadian striker Willis Plaza's double strike to beat Delhi Dynamos 2-1 while Gokulam Kerala blanked NorthEast United FC 2-0 -- also via two goals from Ugandan striker Henry Kisekka -- on the first day of the qualifying round matches at the Kalinga Stadium.
The qualifying round matches are being played among teams which had finished from 7th to 10th positions in the I-League as well as the ISL. The top six finishers in each of the league have been handed direct entry of the main round which begins at the same venue on March 31.
Churchill will now face Kolkata giants Mohun Bagan -- another I-League team -- on April 1 in their round of 16 match while Gokulam play Bengaluru FC -- ISL finalists side -- on the same day.
In the first day of the match, Plaza cancelled out Kalu Uche's fifth minute strike by scoring his first goal of the match in the 32nd minute before finding the the match-winner in the 106th minute as the qualifying round match went into extra time after both sides were locked in a 1-1 stalemate in 90 minutes.
With the win, Churchill redeemed their wretched season somewhat after they finished ninth in the 10-team I-League.
For Delhi Dynamos, this was their first loss after the six-match unbeaten run in the ISL. They had finished at eighth position in the ISL.
Debutant Bengaluru seek to ride on big match experience
Bengaluru FC's impressive record of winning a major trophy in each of their five seasons will be put to the test in the Indian Super League final, in Bengaluru, on Saturday.
Having won either the I-League or Federation Cup in each of their last four seasons, Bengaluru are just a step away from winning the ISL title on debut, should they manage to get the better of Chennaiyin FC at Kanteerava stadium.
Bengaluru FC joined the ISL only this season but have shown none of the indecisiveness or stage fright that might have plagued a newcomer.
It showed in their performances which saw them rake up 35 goals and finish top of the league, garnering a league-high 13 wins in the process. Moreover, they qualified for the play-offs with four games to spare and were eight points clear of second-placed Chennaiyin FC.
Much of that credit has to go to the make-up of their squad which has experienced players in key positions.
"We have players who have played AFC Cup semifinals, finals, Federation Cup finals. The intention is to go out there and do our best," said coach Albert Roca.
Roca's first choice starting XI -- and the bench to an extent -- has seasoned players who know what it takes to win trophies. Right from goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, a seasoned international with European experience, to the forward line which boasts of the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Miku, experience seeps through the team.
Miku, a Valencia youth product, has featured extensively in the La Liga. The 32-year-old was even named the La Liga Player of the Month for February 2016. His skills are beyond question but his maturity has seen him bring consistency and score in decisive moments.
Of course, the experienced Chhetri himself is a big-game player. His exploits are well documented. Even Udanta Singh, though just 21, is an established international and has already played four seasons of top-tier football.
Chhetri feels that they would want to take the summit clash on Saturday as just another game and not think too much about it.
Chennaiyin coach Gregory has high hopes from Jeje
Chennaiyin FC's head coach John Gregory today said that he always knew his striker Jeje Lalpekhlua would come good at some stage of the ongoing Indian Super League after his goal drought in the initial matches.
Jeje struggled initially but made amends at the later stages of the ISL by scoring nine goals so far in this edition.
"If you continue to support him, you know he will get something. I told Jeje he would get two goals, and he did get it in the second leg ISL semifinals against FC Goa," Gregory said.
Jeje's double strike had helped Chennaiyin FC beat FC Goa 3-0 (4-1 aggregate) in the semifinals.
Except for Sunil Chhetri, no Indian striker has been as good as Jeje. He has scored nine goals this ISL after a harrowing time he had in the first three games where he failed to score any goal.
Gregory said Jeje has the mental makeup to face odds if given full support.