By Ian Hughes
Antigua and Barbuda jumped 22 places to 83rd in the latest edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings, placing the country among the biggest movers.
The list is out approximately one month after the Benna Boys defeated Guatemala 1-0 in the first leg of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers at home at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds.
It was the first time that the home side would have beaten a Central American team in any competition.
The team lost 0-2 in Guatemala, missing out on qualifying for the knockout stages and a chance in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
That historic win has, however, given Antigua & Barbuda a much-needed boost to its national program, which continues to improve.
General Secretary of the ABFA Gordon “Banks” Derrick said that the climb is welcome news for the association.
“We are very happy that we moved 22 places,” Derrick said. “This is a demonstration of the hard work and dedication of the players, coaches and the administration.
“Obviously, we are disappointed that we did not advance to the knockout stages, but we continue to focus on the future,” he added.
Already, the ABFA is making plans for the Caribbean Cup slated for 2016, a tournament in which the Benna Boys are expected to do well.
Derrick, who is also the president of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), believes that there is room for improvement for the national team.
“We can improve on this ranking,” the ABFA general secretary boss insisted.
“Our short-term plan is to win the Caribbean Cup, which will give us the opportunity to go after our primary target, the 2017 Gold Cup,” Derrick said.
The latest ranking is not the country’s best. That was achieved in 2014 when Antigua & Barbuda was 70th.
Presently, only Jamaica (57th), Trinidad & Tobago (59th) and Haiti (77th) are the Caribbean teams ranked ahead of Antigua & Barbuda on the FIFA/Coca-Cola list.
Antigua & Barbuda is the highest ranked team in the OECS, with St. Kitts & Nevis trailing by 29 places in second.