After back-to-back outstanding performances on the international stage, the Papua New Guinea national football team has climbed FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking to their highest position, moving up a whopping 14 places to number 156.
Although the big move didn’t change their third place position in the region, Papua New Guinea now sit only four places below Tahiti, who moved down the rankings three places to 152. New Zealand continue to sit at the top of the region after holding their ranking of 112.
New Caledonia and Solomon Islands also made positive moves on the table, with the Francophones moving up two places to 165 and their fellow Melanesians making an impressive eight place climb to 180.
Polynesian nations Samoa, American Samoa and Cook Islands all moved up one place to sit equal at number 189, but Tonga’s recent inactivity resulted in them moving down one place to 206.
Fiji and Vanuatu showed no movement in the hierarchy, remaining at 181 and 170 respectively.
A year of record-breaking success from the Kapuls is responsible for Papua New Guinea’s massive shift, dating back to their historic 2016 OFC Nations Cup campaign on home soil, which doubled as the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ OFC Stage Two qualifiers.
The Flemming Serritslev led team dominated in the group stage of the competition, continuing on to the knockout stage of the competition as well as qualifying for OFC Stage Three.
After narrowly defeating fellow Melanesian contenders Solomon Islands in the semi-final, Papua New Guinea reached the final stage of the OFC Nations Cup for the first time in the member association’s history. The Kapuls battled New Zealand to a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes before conceding in a penalty shootout, ending the match 4-2 to the Kiwis.
Following their OFC Nations Cup campaign, Papua New Guinea played two home-and-away matches against 157th ranked Malaysia, winning the home leg 2-0 in June last year and just falling short in the away leg with a 2-1 loss in November.
A friendly against 28th ranked Iran in November saw a heavy 8-1 defeat, but the competitive match proved worthwhile preparation when Papua New Guinea took on Tahiti in their first matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ – OFC Stage Three Qualifiers in March.
With only 10 men on the field following an early red card, Papua New Guinea were defeated 3-1 by the French Polynesians in their first clash in Port Moresby but proved the more dominant side with equal numbers on the field in their Papeete leg, winning 2-1.
Their success on the international field has attracted attention from around the world, and opportunities have opened for Kapuls to play football in the United States, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Netherlands. This has only strengthened the team more, as overseas-based players return to the national team bringing new experience and styles of football.
Papua New Guinea will have a chance to further improve their reputation as a growing football force when they take on Solomon Islands on 9 and 13 June in their last matches of Group B in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ – OFC Stage Three qualifiers.