Alen Stajcic is a man on a mission to make the Philippine Women’s National Football Team one of the most respected sides in the world.
Straight from annexing the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship, which is the country’s first title under the AFF banner, the former Central Coast Mariner head coach wants to see his team maximize its potential in the international game.
“It feels pretty good. It’s amazing. I have a lot of respect for both teams. I watched both teams grow over the last six to seven years and they’ve reached a really high level,” said Stajcic. “Thailand has been to two World Cups already. They brought some younger players to this tournament as well. They’re developing their next crew.
“A lot of respect for them obviously but this group is on the up. We’re an evolving and emerging team. I think we’ve definitely shown we can definitely be a threat in Southeast Asia. Our job now is to be a powerhouse in Asia as well.”
They started to make waves in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup, which saw them earn a ticket to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup ticket through a semi-finals appearance.
A bronze medal in the 31st Southeast Asian Games then followed by a podium finish in the regional meet was finally accomplished. Now, they finally annexed a championship they can all their own.
“I think this team is really growing and showing we can be a force certainly in Southeast Asia. But you know, our next challenge is a big challenge in trying to conquer the big guns of Asia and certainly, at the World Cup next year,” said the 48-year-old former Matildas mentor
“We’re talking about a whole new level so we have a lot of hard work to do.”
As always, it is easy for people to rest on their laurels. In all honesty, regardless of what happens down the line, Stajcic, his staff, and the players are already legends in Philippine football because of their incredible milestones this year.
“For me, we’ve just climbed a hill but there are mountains that lay ahead. Beating Japan, South Korea, China, North Korea, and Australia is a more difficult task so I’m definitely not getting ahead of myself,” he said. “I’ve seen how good those countries are. I’ve played against the top teams in the world before and I know there’s still a gap for us to bridge to be able to compete against them in Asian Cups, but also Olympic Games, and World Cup fixtures.
“We’re gonna celebrate right now no doubt but I know in the big picture, there’s a lot of work to do.”
So how does a team get better in international matches? The simple answer to that is taking on more established nations from different parts of the world.
There are so many steep challenges that lie ahead for the Filipinas as they near the World Cup. Thankfully, Stajcic, his staff, and the team’s management and the Philippine Football Federation have a plan in place for the team.
Things should only get better from here and the exciting part is yet to come.
“We’re gonna celebrate right now no doubt but I know in the big picture, there’s a lot of work to do,” said Stajcic
“We need to keep improving. I’m always hungry and greedy for more success and this team has a lot of growth to do. We’re a young team. We need to travel and play the world. We need to play North American teams and South American teams. Ultimately, the only continent we won’t play at the World Cup in our group is an Asian team,” he continued.
“We went to Europe. We need to experience playing against other cultures and styles and again that accelerates the growth of the team.”
Ever since he signed on to be the coach of the Filipinas, Stajcic has demonstrated that it is indeed possible for the Philippines to reach success on the international stage as long as everyone is aligned with the same objective.
This AFF championship proved that the Filipinas can indeed cross the finish line and strike gold. However, they will simply push further from here as it is the marching orders of their coach to always prepare for what lies ahead.