As the captain of the Philippine Women’s National Football Team heading into the qualifying matches of the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, Inna Palacios knew that the onus was on her to take charge of protecting the nation’s dream of making it into the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
However, things hardly go to plan these days, and the Filipinas saw themselves at the backfoot early against Nepal. Striker Bimala Chaudhary headed the ball past Palacios within 10 minutes of the match.
“It was a wake-up call,” said the 27-year-old stopper out of La Salle. “We know we started slow but we had to stay composed and focused, especially running our offense.
“We all came in with a mentality of winning so there was no backing out – we pushed.”
A sense of urgency then crept in immediately for the Filipinos.
A loss would have been disastrous in the country’s quest to make it to the World Cup for the first time in its history. The players needed to act if they wanted to fight for another day.
“We couldn’t take it back, so we had to move forward and make necessary adjustments. I’m just so proud that everyone played hard and followed the plan given by our coaches,” expressed Palacios, who has been serving the national team since 2012.
With Nepal putting 10 players behind the ball to defend its lead, Palacios was a virtual spectator. Instead, those in front of her persevered to put the ball at the back of the net.
Tahnai Annis pulled one back at the 90th minute of the game from close range. Then Camille Wilson scored the winner for the Filipinas soon after.
They averted that potential crisis. For now, the dream is still alive. And hope always springs eternal for those who persevere.
“That shows how much heart and grit this team has. No one gave up,” said Palacios, who plays for Green Archers United. “Everyone pushed hard until the very end. We wanted it.
“Having to prepare how we did was not ideal but we always made it work and made the most of what we had.”
By all accounts, Palacios and her teammates are one step into the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, with Nepal and Hong Kong fighting out a 0-0 draw.
Despite that, only a win will do for them against the latter as they hope to close this campaign on a high note.
“Right from the beginning, our mentality is to win both games. We’re focused and motivated. We have a shared goal and that is to be in the World Cup.”