The Philippines will be playing minus one COVID 19-infected player the rest of the way, but coach Alen Stajcic remains upbeat about his team’s campaign in the 2022 Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup.
The PH lady booters’ historic 1-0 upset of Thailand last Friday has already improved their chances of reaching the quarterfinal round.
But their big game with Tokyo Olympics’ fourth placer Australia at 3:30 p.m. Monday (6 p.m. Manila time) will keep the Filipina booters on their toes at the Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai.
“We got a big game with Australia, such a big and powerful team. We need to refocus on that game,” said Stajcic in a virtual interview with Filipino scribes.
The Filipinas missed Fil-Am player Sarina Bolden, a midfielder for WE League club Chifure AS Elfen Saitama, after she tested positive for COVID-19 a day before their game with Thailand. She has been in isolation since.
Despite her absence, Stajcic said the Filipinas’ resilience against the Thais pulled them through.
“I’m really proud of their resilience and their performance under such extreme difficulty,” added Stajcic, who handled the Australian Matildas during their stint in the Olympics.
Now under coach Tony Gustavvson, the Aussies will bring the momentum they got into their game following an 18-0 smashing of Indonesia.
Gustavvson said he decided to field a strong squad in their match against Indonesia in order for the team to set the tone with a good start.
“There are different reasons, but the number one reason is that we need that cohesion between the players and to get off on a good start, to send some messages to ourselves and to the others about how we are treating this tournament,” explained Gustavvson.
While the Philippines is expected to play defensively, Gustavvson plans to be an attacking team all throughout.
Gustavvson said they have been comfortable with their 3-4-4 and 4-3-3 formations over the last 12 months. But there will be tweaks in their game, plus flexibility on how they’ll pull it off and some surprises in store in their clash with the Philippines.
The Philippines’ defense will be centered on center back Hali Long, whose presence allowed the Filipinas to stand their ground against the Thais in the first half.
On the other hand, the Aussies will be bannered by team skipper Samantha Kerr, the team’s leading scorer, who had five goals against Indonesia.
Gustavvson said his players weren’t able to get together much during their training camp and giving them a lot of exposure will help many them get off their rustiness.
“The other thing we need to remember is that our international team doesn’t get many minutes together. Pre-camp has been very short leading into this one. We have some players coming back from different situations that actually need minutes to get up and running,” stated Gustavvson.