With the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup hosted by India just one month away, the Philippine Women’s National Football Team is dead set in their preparations in their camp in Los Angeles, USA.
During a virtual press conference Tuesday morning, members of the team and Philippine Football Federation personnel shared updates alongside what they hope to achieve in the upcoming continental tourney, which also serves as Asia’s qualifiers for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
“There are so many positives within this group,” opined coach Alen Stajcic. “It’s such a good group. It’s such a united group that I’ve noticed.
“They’re all aligned and driven to succeed as one and that’s what we have to do to give ourselves every possible chance of getting one of those spots for the World Cup.”
The Philippines is set to go up against the likes of Australia and regional neighbors Thailand and Indonesia in Group B of the Asian Cup.
The top two nations shall advance to the knockouts while the two best third-placers in the group stage shall also earn a ticket to the said round. The challenge to do so is daunting but the players are definitely up for it.
“The squad that we have right now has been really great,” said midfielder Tahnai Annis. “It’s nice to have a little bit of consistency from our last campaign being so close and now we kind of have a core group and we’ve been able to bring in players kind of from all over (the world).
“We’ve been training for five weeks now and I think the team has really been able to gel a little bit more than we’ve ever been able to because this is the longest amount of time all of us have spent together training consistently and it’s really starting to show. I’m really excited for the squad that we have and I think we can do really well if everyone is able to be 100 percent and give everything we have.”
By all accounts, the Philippines is one of the underdogs of the competition. The country has never gone past the group stage in its history. By contrast, Stajcic has already reached the pinnacle of the game by leading his motherland Australia to a win over Brazil in the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
Despite the drastic change of scenery, the 48-year-old is unfazed by the task at hand.
“When you come from a base of very little and I remembered the team at the last Asian Cup struggled to score against the big countries but were still very competitive. Overall, for a first appearance in a long time, the team showed it could at least sort of compete,” said the former Central Coast Mariners mentor.
“The starting point for me of any team that I’ve coached is always the same – how are we going to find a way to win the match? I always start with a positive point of view. What do we have to do to win that match?” he continued.
“From what I have been told, we haven’t beaten Thailand before in history so what do we need to do to win that match? We’re not going there to draw. We’re not going there to be competitive. We’re going there to win the match. Everything we do in training is to find ways to win the match… But ultimately the starting point for me is how do we win the game? That doesn’t change regardless of whether you’re coaching Australia, the Philippines, or anyone.”
Since the tournament is getting closer and closer, the team has been competing in numerous friendlies recently to get into match shape. The coaching staff has been experimenting with their players trying to figure out the best combinations for the games ahead. As coaches always say – training should be harder than the actual competition.
“We’re working hard to minimize all those deficiencies and try to cover up those and get as fit as we can and that’s one of the biggest challenges we got – to try to get us as fit as we can because ultimately, like I keep saying to the group, it will be the fourth of the fifth match in this tournament that will determine who goes to the World Cup and it’s imperative that we’re fit enough by the time we get to the fourth or fifth match to get ourselves a chance of winning that match to qualify for the World Cup,” said Stajcic
“I’ve been to two Asian Cups now and this will be my third Asian Cup so I know if we put our best foot forward that this team is capable of achieving this dream we’re talking about.”