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2021 SEA Games

No longer underdogs, Filipinas brace for tough SEAG campaign


After a successful 2022 AFC Asian Cup and impressive results in their friendly matches, the Filipinas seek to have a successful 31st Southeast Asian Games campaign as part of the preparations for the 2022 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Filipinas are set to secure a podium finish in the biennial games this millennium. The last time around, the Philippines lost out on a bronze medal finish after it folded 1-2 to Myanmar at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

This time, though, things are different and confidence is high as coach Alen Stajcic’s wards are raring to grow to create more milestones for Philippine football.

“We’re obviously looking forward to the tournament. It’s an important tournament for us and we want to really build off the back of the performances of the Asian Cup,” said the 48-year-old mentor.

“We have a couple of players who are out. Our striker from the Asian Cup, Chandler McDaniel, had an ACL injury so she’s out for another 10 months. We have one of our players (Katrina Guillou) in Europe who can’t travel because it’s not even the FIFA window. We have a couple of players who are unavailable but other than that, it’s our full-strength team.”

Alongside the likes of host nation Vietnam and Cambodia in Group A after Indonesia’s withdrawal, the onus is on the Filipinas to perform well amidst having almost no margin of error.

As usual, the top two teams of the group advance to the semi-finals and that is the bare minimum achievement for the squad. Things will not be easy, though, as Vietnam looks to be a formidable antagonist to the Filipinas’ ambitions.

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“In terms of the opponents, obviously for me, Vietnam is probably the strongest team at the Asian Cup out of the teams that are here,” added the erstwhile Central Coast Mariners mentor. “Of course their performances were excellent. They had a lot of difficulty with COVID arriving in India and the way they overcame it, the way they played, and the way they achieved their qualification is really remarkable.

“I think they’re probably the favorite of this tournament. I think obviously Thailand and Myanmar are two of the stronger countries in Southeast Asia as well,” he continued.

“Ultimately, there’s a lot of emerging nations here. A lot of the teams underestimated us at the Asian Cup so they’re certainly not gonna underestimate these new and emerging nations as well.”

With fans back in the stands, the atmosphere promises to be intense for the Filipinas. Playing in closed-door stadiums during the Asian Cup in India was a relatively tame experience compared to the pressure-cooker of supporters roaring inside stadiums in their next matches.

Truly, these SEA Games will be more special than most. Amidst the bigger challenge that lies ahead, it is not only regional bragging rights at stake but also the development of the players with bigger challenges ahead.

Stajcic, though, would not have it any other way.

“For us, we’re a new team. We’re an emerging team and a developing team so we need to improve a lot to make sure we’re competitive for next year’s World Cup,” he said. “I’m sure Vietnam is on the same boat since it is their first appearance in the World Cup just like us. This is such an important tournament to build the players’ preparations for good matches, playing under pressure, and playing in a tournament format.

“So you know, a lot of learning that can come from a tournament like this so we’re really looking forward to it.”

There will be tougher tests ahead for the Filipinas as they look to test themselves against the best international sides. For now, it is about them asserting themselves against their neighbors.

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They will commence their campaign against Cambodia tomorrow night at 8:00 PM and then shall take on Vietnam on Wednesday at 8:00 PM as well.

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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