Staying safe and healthy is now the primary concern of the Philippine national women’s football team.
The undermanned Filipina booters are now carefully preparing for their coming match today with winless Indonesia under a bubble type of setup at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune, India.
Four members of the delegation, including two players, are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. And this is keeping the rest of the squad on their on toes in the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup 2022.
“We’re trying to stay as safe as possible and trying to keep our bubble tight and secure as we can, hydrated and doing all the crucial things that we need to do,” said Fil-American booter Hali Long, who has been the heart and soul of the Malditas’ defense since the beginning of their campaign.
The squad, which has kept its moniker Malditas for now despite clamors to change it, will meet Indonesia in its final Group B assignment at 10 p.m. (Manila time).
The Malditas are looking for a second win that will put them in the quarterfinal round with Group A topnotcher Australia.
“It’s sacrifice that we need to do, staying safe, healthy, and protected, to get where we need to be,” added the 5’8” Long in a Zoom interview with Filipino scribes.
The other day, host India could not field a complete team and withdrew from the tournament after members of their roster were tested positive for COVID-19.
Long said the team will play with confidence despite losing to Australia, 0-4, saying that they have proven themselves defensively against the world no. 11 team.
Injuries have also hobbled the team, with goalies Inna Palacios and Olivia McDaniel unable to play in their tiff with Australia, and with substitute Kiara Fontanilla doing an impressive job in their absence. Another injured teammate Katrina Guilliou had to be fielded late in the game.
“We all won our little battles in the field. And that went well for the entire team. We all won our little battles when we needed to, even if we didn’t win that moment specifically,” said Long, who has been with the national squad since 2016.
The Matildas, who won their second straight match, need to beat Thailand at 10 p.m. today in Mumbai to formally enter the quarterfinals.
The Aussies could go into a playoff with the leader of Group C, which could either be Japan or South Korea.
Their mindset going into their encounter with Indonesia has not changed, according to Long, and that is to remain focused on a win and a way out of Group B.
“It does not matter the caliber of the team we are facing. We’re going to play with our hearts out and integrity in it,” she said.