The Bahrain Football Association’s signing of English coach Peter Taylor has so far proved a masterstroke, prompting a run of excellent results that have seen the national side rocket up the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking. Indeed, victory in the Arab Games in December helped ensure that Bahrain rose six places to 95th on the global ladder, thus making them the 11th highest-positioned team in Asia. This upward progression was particularly welcome after the team had sunk from 93rd at the start of 2011 to a low of 102nd in June, September and November.
However, that is not to say things could not be better. Bahrain are still a long way off their record high Ranking of 44, which they attained back in September 2004, but the encouraging start to Taylor’s reign holds out the promise of a rosy future.
It’s great news. I’m just happy that our results have had a positive impact on the country’s Ranking.
At the 12th edition of the Arab Games, held in Qatar, Bahrain’s performances were strong throughout. They opened their account with a 2-2 draw against hosts and Group A rivals Qatar, before going on to beat Iraq 3-0 in their second outing. Once in the semi-finals, a 3-1 victory over Palestine took them into the final against Jordan, when Ismail Abdullatif’s last-gasp goal settled a closely-fought contest and clinched the title for Bahrain.
“I’ve got truly wonderful memories of our unforgettable campaign,” reflected Taylor. “We got the gold and we’ve put Bahrain back on the map. I’m also delighted with the players, who really enjoyed the tournament and put in some excellent performances, especially in the final, which we won with a goal two minutes before the final whistle. That goal made victory even sweeter.”
When quizzed asked about Bahrain’s rise on the Ranking, Taylor appeared pleasantly surprised. “I had no idea about that, to be honest,” he said with a smile. “It’s great news. I’m just happy that our results have had a positive impact on the country’s Ranking.”
Onwards and upwards
It is clear that Taylor, who has previously coached English sides including Leicester City, Hull City and Crystal Palace, has big ambitions for his new charges. With Bahrain’s football administration also making weighty plans for the future of the game in their country, maintaining this excellent run of form is certainly important.
Though Bahrain’s qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ has been less than impressive, Taylor insisted that bringing youngsters into the squad and continuing the process of building a solid side for the future must take priority.
“Most of the players in the side are youngsters,” he said. “But given time and plenty of games their standard will improve and they’ll get the experience they need.
"If we get knocked out of the World Cup qualifiers early it will be disappointing, but we have to keep our focus. The Gulf Cup is coming up next year and there are a lot of training camps and friendlies to get through if we want the side to keep evolving and getting stronger.”
And though Taylor is thinking first and foremost about building a side to compete with the best in Asia in the near future, he would certainly not be averse to seeing Bahrain a few places higher on next month’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking.