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Hali Long believes PWNFT has yet to reach peak in Women’s Asian Cup


When Hali Long first joined the Philippine Women’s National Football Team back in 2016, competing against international teams at the top echelons of the game looked like a pipe dream.

Unexpected opportunities arrive once in a while, though, as Long and the PWNFT put a good account of themselves despite succumbing 0-4 to Australia in their AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022 clash.

“It was a really good experience for all of us playing against that caliber of a team — all the way to their touches and their sight of the field, and what they can exploit, and different types of teams (which I think was impressive),” said the 5-foot-8 center-back. “As I said before, it was a really good benchmark for us.

“We have nothing to lose in that game; everything to prove. And I think for 50 minutes, we did prove that.”

Long was immense throughout the contest. Local football fans appreciated her tenacity and leadership in the backline as they did all they can to prevent the likes of Chelsea forward and Australia team captain Sam Kerr from breaking the deadlock.

The 27-year-old product of University of Arkansas at Little Rock exemplified the Philippine defense’s impressive performance, which was made more impressive by the fact that goalkeeper, Kiara Fontanilla, managed to hold her own in her debut.

2022-AFC-Womens-Asian-Cup-Philippines-vs-Australia-Kiara-Fontanilla Hali Long believes PWNFT has yet to reach peak in Women's Asian Cup Football News Philippine Malditas  - philippine sports news

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“I said that I would want to win my little battles on the field, and that went with the entire team. I think we won our little battles where we needed to, and even though we didn’t win at that moment specifically, we tried to win the next one. And our hustle on and off the field definitely showed in that game. It is a really good boost to our morale,” said the Missouri native.

“I am really proud of Kiara, stepping up. That’s not an easy position whatsoever. Probably one of the hardest in the field. But she’s a really good vocal presence and that physical presence for us and she’s stepped up whenever she needed to. So it’s really great seeing her thriving out there in a high-stress situation.”

After two fantastic matches in the tournament, it is safe to say that the program built by coach Alan Stajcic and his staff along with the support of team manager Jefferson Cheng and the supervision of the Philippine Football Federation is paying dividends as more and more Filipinos are recognizing the team’s efforts.

#ReadMore  Azkals coach Cooper in Suzuki Cup draw: 'It's almost like a replay of 2018'

It is also no accident that Long and her teammates are doing so well considering they had two months to train and live together.

“I think the Thailand game set the bar pretty high and then the Australia game set the bar even higher for ourselves.

“So we gave ourselves quite the challenge to raise that bar even higher, regardless of Indonesia’s rank. I think it all becomes personal at this point — personal to ourselves, personal to our team as a whole, what we want to show next,” she explained.

The upcoming clash against Indonesia can be an era-defining one for the team as a win will void all other permutations and seal a ticket into the knockouts for the first time in history. It would be similar to how the Azkals sent shockwaves back home when they qualified for the semi-finals in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010.

With so much at stake, Long just wants to keep her head in that one-game-at-a-time mentality but she knows that all their endeavors are leading them towards the right path. She also hopes that young Filipinos will become passionate about football in part thanks to their current success.

2022-AFC-Womens-Asian-Cup-Philippines-vs-Australia-Hali-Long-2 Hali Long believes PWNFT has yet to reach peak in Women's Asian Cup Football News Philippine Malditas  - philippine sports news

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“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet. It’s definitely a higher level. But I have seen from us personally, and also at a personal level, I feel like I’m playing at a higher level, but it is all of us rising to the occasion of the magnitude of the tournament and what it means,” said Long.

“It’s us taking this chance for Philippine football. I don’t think we’ve peaked yet. Hopefully, we start peaking after the group stages and see where we go from there. But I can’t speak too soon. It would be difficult, but hopefully, we just keep on setting the bar higher and higher for ourselves.”

Written By

Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces


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