The quest to join the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup hosted by Australia and New Zealand begins now for the Philippine Women’s National Football Team as it is already in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, ready to compete in qualifying matches for the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
“We’re excited to train today together with everyone,” said team captain Inna Palacios in a virtual press conference. “We were separated for quite some time, and we’re happy we’re all together finally and we can’t wait to play on Saturday. We’re excited for that one and we just hope to play at our best with everyone and the whole staff as well.
“Coach [Marlon] Maro’s doing a great job preparing us in terms of our tactical (instructions) and we’re just happy that we’re all adapting well given the situation we’re in.”
Before Palacios and the rest of her teammates headed to Uzbekistan, they underwent a training camp in California. It hosted players based from the Philippines who have not seen action for a long time because of the coronavirus pandemic; as well as US-based players eager to represent the country at the international level.
It is safe to say that the team could have had a more ideal situation in terms of preparing for two crucial fixtures. Ultimately, though, everyone needs to play with the cards dealt to them. Despite the challenges that came their way, the players and coaches are looking forward to the task at hand.
“I think under the circumstances, I would like to say that we gave the team the best preparation they can get. We were hoping for more tuneup matches before that but unfortunately, the situation with COVID-19, with traveling also was a big challenge but… we’re ready,” said team manager Jeff Cheng.
“To all our supporters, I would like to let you know we’re prepared, we’re in high spirits, and I think we’ll do our best to achieve our objective which is to win both matches in this qualifier and make it into the Asian Cup 2022.”
For Maro, the matches against Hong Kong and Nepal could have come at a better time for him to start another reign as the national coach of the women’s program. However, he is ready to guide the team to hit the ground running especially with the development that no one tested positive for the dreaded COVID-19 virus.
“As what (PFF President Mariano Araneta) mentioned, the goal is to qualify for the Women’s World Cup in 2023.
“I think when it comes to the lineup, for me I think this is the best lineup we were able to assemble because the products of our age youth program are with us. It’s a combination of seniors and young players. We have a combination of big and tall players from goalkeeper, midfield, and strikers,” said the veteran mentor.
“We’re very much ready Sir Nong (Araneta) for Saturday and we will bring the good news when we come back… Thank you PFF for trusting the coaching staff and the players for this campaign,” he continued.
With the Philippines still on a high after a historic Tokyo Olympic campaign that saw finally saw the country win a gold medal thanks to the heroics of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, the Filipinas look to extend the nation’s international success on the football pitch.
One of the main architects of that success, the MVPSF, is backing the PWNT, which looks to create its own milestones in the world of Philippine sports. Inspired by the success of Diaz, Nesthy Petecio, Eumir Marcial, and Carlo Paalam, the said organization is hopeful that another triumphant event will happen.
“MVPSF has supported the women’s program for quite a few years now,” said MVP SF program director Vince Santos. “Building on the success in 2018, we’re really hopeful that the team now under coach Marlon Maro… It’s very encouraging to see the girls coming back and supporting the team now. We’re just looking forward to your performance and wishing you luck on behalf of the MVP Sports Foundation.”
The Philippines will play against Nepal (September 18, 6:00 PM) and Hong Kong (September 24, 6:00 PM) at the JAR Stadium in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in Group F.
Only the top team of the group will qualify for the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which the team looks to achieve after doing so for the 2018 edition of the said competition.
“We have high hopes that the triumphs in Tokyo will continue to be an inspiration for Filipino athletes, especially to our women’s national team that will be shooting for a spot in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup starting on Saturday,” said Araneta.
“Qualification to the 12-country Asian Cup is a priority as it means that the team will be in contention for the five spots for Asia in the Women’s World Cup. There are many opportunities to qualify for the World Cup but we have to control our destiny so we have to make the most of these chances given to us.”