Filipinas coach Mark Torcaso is putting aside any feelings of patriotism as he plots to lead the Philippines to an upset against his home country, Australia, in the second round of the 2024 AFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Perth.
The 42-year-old Torcaso, who signed a two-year contract to replace Alen Stajcic two months ago, is focused on guiding the Filipinas to the best of his abilities. For this Sunday at least, he will be a Filipino at heart.
“I’m the Philippines coach now, so that’s all I really worry about,” he said.
“I’m not Australian for that day. It’s just like any opposition. We played Japan and South Korea, which are top nations. We played Chinese Taipei, which is a good team as well.
“It doesn’t really matter who we play. Yes, we’re playing in Australia, just as the girls did against New Zealand in front of a home crowd. I think that will excite our players. That will get them really pumped up to be the best they can,” he continued.
“It holds some small significance, but my job is to coach this team, and, with a little respect to the Matildas and the Australian audience, my role is to lead this team and be the best coach I can be for this team.”
The Matildas are ranked 11th in the world and finished in fourth place in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. They are coming off a 2-0 win against Iran last Thursday to kickstart their Olympic qualification campaign.
The last time the Philippines and Australia faced each other at the senior level was in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India. Back then, the Filipinas lost 0-4 to the Matildas in what was Stajcic’s second game in charge.
Sunday’s clash is already a must-see event in Perth, as the Optus Stadium has sold out its capacity of 60,000 fans. The chances of winning against a global powerhouse in front of an energetic home crowd may be slim, but Torcaso and the Filipinas will give it everything they have.
“These girls are really just excited to be part of this,” he said. “We’re excited to be part of it as well as the staff too. There’s no doubt that playing against Australia is going to be a tough challenge for us, but we’re up for it.
“That’s going to improve our players for the future and hold them in good stead for when we continue to play against top opponents.”