The Philippine women’s national football team is another group that will be hold their final preparations for this year’s Southeast Asian Games in Japan.
The nation boasts an impressive football program that has seen their women’s team win regional tournaments, and most notably the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011, thus any exposure to their football will no doubt be of great value.
This boost in preparation for the Filipinas was made possible through the collaboration of the Philippine Football Federation with the Japan Football Association.
The team which has already been holding regular training sessions in Manila for two months will undergo an even more intensive camp for nine days in Hakone in the Kanagawa Prefecture.
Supervising the Japan camp will be newly appointed head coach Let Dimzon, who succeeds Buda Bautista, after the latter ended her stint with a successful campaign in Tajikistan last April that saw a historic qualification for the Philippines to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
Dimzon has called up 21 players for the camp that serves as the final lead-up to the team’s participation in the 29th Southeast Asian Games next month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Fifteen members of the triumphant squad that competed in Tajikistan return: Sara Castañeda (De La Salle University), Dai Dolino (OutKast FC), Eva Madarang (Moorpark College), Anicka Castañeda (De La Salle Zobel/Green Archers United FC), Irish Navaja (DLSU), Jovelle Sudaria (Far Eastern University), Patricia Tomanon (Florida International University), Mary Cristine Duran (DLSU), Zhyrelle Belluga (FEU), Alisha Del Campo (DLSZ/GAU FC), Hali Long (University of Arkansas at Little Rock), Hazel Arce (FEU), Joanna Almeda (DLSZ/GAU FC), along with co-captains Inna Palacios (DLSU) and Patrice Impelido (Hiraya FC).
Camille Rodriguez (Ateneo de Manila University) rejoins the team after a six-year absence.
New to the seniors’ squad are UAAP Season 79 top striker Kyra Dimaandal (DLSU), UAAP Season 79 most valuable player Kyla Inquig, UAAP Season 79 finalist Charisa Lemoran (University of Sto. Tomas), Mea Bernal (OutKast FC), and Filipina-Canadian Faith Ruetas (St. Theresa of Lisieux High School) who last competed for the Philippines’ U-16 team in China last year.
Assisting Dimzon are coaches John Paul Merida, Timo Orcullo, and Haya Ibarra.
Before heading out to Japan, Dimzon divulged that the team is almost ready for their SEA Games tiff. “As of now, we are ninety percent ready. There’s been progress since our first week nung medyo malabo pa yung organization nila. We will work on the remaining ten percent when we go to Japan,” she said.
Training started as far back as the first week of June, from three-times-a-week sessions to a more regular schedule every day, which included humbling scrimmages against high school boys’ teams that progressed to collegiate men’s teams.
Dimzon revealed that this was necessary. “Para makasabay kami sa pace at quality ng players na kakalabanin namin,” she shared, referring to their would-be opponents in Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand.
In Japan, they will be facing women’s teams that are just as quick, in between their twice-a-day training sessions, namely: Nojima Stella Kanagawa Sagamihara (August 4), Yamanashi Gakuin University (August 6) and the Kanagawa-based U-18 team of the JFA Academy (August 8). It should be noted that Nojima Stella are a top-tier club team in the domestic Nadeshiko league that is currently seventh in the standings.
The Filipinas’ new mentor is confident that the team will be ready for the SEA Games after Japan.
“We just need to do some polishing. We’re going to address the remaining problems like medyo nako-confuse pa sila especially sa defending. Set pieces din hindi pa namin na-wo-work out but mostly we’re already there,” Dimzon said.