On Monday, July 4, the Philippine Women’s National Football Team will open its campaign in the AFF Women’s Championship 2022 against the Matildas of Australia. The Filipinas are in Group A along with Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
Vietnam, Myanmar, Timore-Leste, Cambodia and Laos are in Group B.
To say that the group is tough is another understatement — a familiar line here at The Designated Kit Man.
Nevertheless, ever the optimist, we are hoping for the best for the national team, as always is the case whenevera national team competes in an international tournament.
Honestly, I can’t help but keep my hopes high for the team. It is coming from historic back-to-back wins against Bosnia and Herzegovina and a morale-boosting game against Ireland before flying to the country for the AFF Cup. The team also won its first medal in the Southeast Asian Games after more than three decades of futility. The team’s talent pool is quite deep that it enabled head coach Alen Stajcic the opportunity to test his players and their abilities in their last friendlies. And of course, the team has qualified to the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The team is fit and ready, not to mention that morale is very high. Which is very important especially now that the Filipinas will get to play before the local crowd for the first time in the pandemic era.
Obviously, the home court advantage will also play a key role as the team will definitely have the crowd as the 12th woman on the pitch.
“I think it will mean that much more to get to play in front of all of our friends, family and supporters. Since we’ve been playing kind of all over now and haven’t really got to have that home field advantage, that home field crowd, and I think everyone’s just really excited for that. I think all the support we will have will really help us through this long tournament. So I know everyone’s really excited and really honored to be able to play in the Philippines,” Tahnai Annis said.
Dominique Randle also shared Annis’ enthusiasm in playing in the Philippines for the first time before their families and fans, who don’t get the opportunity to see them play “live.”
“I think is a really good opportunity just to thank them for all that they’ve have done just to support us while we’ve been training competing. And I think it’s really great to feel that familial support. Now that we’re here, I think we just take every game one step at a time. And hopefully we channel that energy that we have from the fans and from our families and we can show our heart through the way that we play,” she said.
Of course, a lot of credit should be given to the players and the coaching staff as well. The fruits of their sacrifices and efforts were evident in every game they played so far. So, pardon my enthusiasm for expecting a lot from the team like the majority of their fans.
Stajcic, however, cautions against high expectations from the team. He said that the team is still evolving. He knows that they are competing in a very tough group, but he admitted playing at home is definitely a big boost.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement in our game and and we’re working hard at training every single time and with video sessions and and all kinds of different methods of ensuring that everyone gets up to speed with becoming the best team we can be. We’re really happy with the progression we always are and we know we’re a word, hardworking team and disciplined and, and grateful for the opportunities we have to travel the world,” Stajcic said.
But he agreed that playing in the Philippines will be very special. It is a good opportunity for the players to thank their families, fans and supporters by playing well against the powerhouse teams in the competitions.
“We’re really looking forward to the next chapter and playing it on home soil is something special and and I’m sure something that the players are going to remember for the rest of their lives,” he said.
Again, Stajcic reminded everyone that the AFF tournament, win or lose, is just part of preparations for a bigger goal. That the tournament is part of a long journey that will take a lot from his team. And his players know this, too, and well.
“The AFF is an important tournament but I’ve always got one eye on the World Cup and we’ve said right from the outset — and the players are well aware of this— that one of the main goals of this team is to build the depth of the team not only for cover within the team for tournaments like this, but to put pressure on positions as you know, we want 27, 28 or 30 players competing for those final 23 jerseys at the World Cup. We need that internal rivalry and players knowing that they have to perform to keep earning their jerseys,” he explained.
He added that Australia and Thailand will offer the stiffest challenges in the group, but it doesn’t mean that the rest of the competitions will be easy. Despite these, Stajcic what will team learn during the tournament will be very important.
“It’s going to be a very tough challenge. But playing against different styles is always the best part as well. And Australia presents a different challenge to Thailand and then Thailand presents a different challenge to all the other teams in the group, so there’s a lot of different aspects to the tournament that make it really exciting one wanting to win the tournament and win a medal which I believe we haven’t done before,” he said.
After Australia, the Filipinas will face Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. All their games will be played at 7 p.m. at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinals.
Aside from the Filipinas, the country’s Under 19 team will also open their campaign in the AFF U-19 in Jakarta, Indonesia at 5 p.m. on July 1 against Thailand at the Patriot Candrabhaga Stadium. The boys are in Group A with Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Brunei.
Wishing our teams all the best in the coming days and also for the country for the next six years as well.
Compared to football, running and loving the Philippines are entirely different ball games.
Stay safe. Stay happy peeps!
For comments or questions, you can reach The Designated Kit Man at erel_ca[email protected] or follow his account at Twitter: @erelcabatbat