The 100 club: When Southeast Asian teams were relevant in the rankings

At the present time, Southeast Asian football is lagging far behind other regions in terms of the FIFA world rankings. But that wasn’t always the case…

Thailand currently fly the flag for Southeast Asia, while Australia’s Socceroos have made their mark since joining the AFC, but back in the 20th century the likes of Indonesia and Myanmar took turns shaking the football world.

Along the way they secured the highest ranking to date in Southeast Asian football history

The Indonesians held eventual gold medallists the Soviet Union to a 0-0 draw at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne and even further back, when Indonesia were still the Dutch Indies, they competed at the 1938 World Cup in France.

Right now no Southeast Asian teams are ranked in FIFA’s top 100. So you might be surprised by how many times SEA teams did crack the century in the 1990s.

Thailand (No.43, September 1998)

Thailand ended the 1998 Tiger Cup – the former name of the AFF Suzuki Cup – in disgrace. But along the way they also secured the highest ranking to date in Southeast Asian football history.

Along with Indonesia, Thailand became embroiled in one of Asian football’s biggest scandals when the two teams tried to manipulate the outcome of their group match to avoid Vietnam in the semi-finals.

But wins against Philippines and Indonesia had been enough to put Thailand up to a lofty 43rd place in the world football standings.

Singapore (No.73, August 1993)

When FIFA introduced the world rankings for the first time, Singapore broke into the top 100 at the first call.

That was due to Singapore’s fine performance at the 1993 SEA Games, when Fandi Ahmad and company won the bronze medal behind Thailand and Myanmar.

But Singapore weren’t the highest-placed Southeast Asian country, with Thailand sitting 66th at the time.

Two other SEA countries were in the world’s top 100: Malaysia and Indonesia at 75th and 98th respectively.

Photo courtesy of Steven Tan

Vietnam (No.84, September 1998)

Vietnam secured their piece of rankings history via the 1998 AFF Championships, despite losing to Singapore 1-0 in the final.

Having negotiated the group stage undefeated, including victories over Malaysia and Laos, the key to the ratings jump was Vietnam’s 3-0 win against Thailand in the semi-final.

By defeating a team higher in the rankings, Vietnam catapulted 14 places up the list to reach their best ever mark.

[NEXT: What ranking heights did Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar reach?]