Kyrgyzstan maintain incremental growth
© AFP

In a relatively quiet month during which 26 Asian countries remained unchanged in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Kyrgyzstan climbed a solitary place up the global ladder to 146. While it is the slightest of moves in numerical term, it remains a testament to the incremental progress the Central Asians have made over recent years.

Like other countries, the former Soviet republic have had their own ups and downs in the global pecking order since they became affiliated to FIFA in 1994. They began from a humble 165th place in November that year. After spending the next decade displaying relatively lacklustre form, with little progress made in the world ranking, they secured their first major breakthrough in 2006.

Their placing at the start of the year somewhat belied the team's forthcoming momentum, with the side languishing at 159 over the opening three months. But they soared 13 places to 146 in April and after a solitary-place slip the next month, they rocketed 26 places to 121. The memorable period of progression ended up in Kyrgyzstan reaching an all-time high of 119 in August courtesy of another two-place move.

The milestone feat came on the back of their eye-catching performances during the 2006 AFC Challenge Cup. Under Boris Podkorytov, they defeated neighbouring Tajikistan as well as Macau to storm into the last eight. Ruslan Djamshidov then struck the only goal in stoppage-time as they edged Palestine to set up a semi-final rematch with the Tajiks, only to lose out 2-0.

Rebuilding years
That last-four finish remains the country's best-ever result in an Asian campaign, with two qualifying failures combined with two early exits after the group phase during the ensuing years. Meanwhile, they have made little impression in qualifying for FIFA World Cups™, suffering early elimination on each occasion.

With the setbacks, Kyrgyzstan took a downward spiral after reaching the highest placing in 2006. After the failure to qualify for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, they finished a disappointing 2011 by sinking to 191. They went on to slip further down the next year to 199, before slumping to 201 in March last year which remains their lowest placing.

That proved the darkest hour before a new dawn, however, as Kyrgyzstan turned the decline on its head with an unprecedented 59-place move catapulting them to 142 the next month. The biggest move in their history was attributed to their unblemished record during qualifying for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup, with three straight victories against familiar foes in Tajikistan, plus Pakistan and Macau earning them a deserved place in the continental finals.

"I did whatever I could to help my team progress," the team's striking-ace David Tetteh, who scored three match-winning goals as Kyrgyzstan went through, told FIFA.com in a previous interview. "I hope I can continue this form in the Challenge Cup itself and my team win more matches."

The team, under new manager Sergey Dvoryankov, did enter this month's Challenge Cup aiming to break new ground. However, a 1-0 opening defeat to Palestine was followed by another 2-0 loss to hosts Maldives, results which left their hopes hanging by a thread. Although they recorded their first win of the campaign by undoing Myanmar 1-0, it was Maldives that progressed at their expense.

Despite the blow, coach Dvoryankov opted to focus on the positives. "I am happy with the performances (against Myanmar)," he said. "We created enough chances in all three games, but finishing remains a problem for us. Even though we carved out sizable chances, it meant little as we misfired. One goal from three matches is not enough."