Rest and recovery for the Filipinas are the priorities of Australian coach Alen Stajcic in looking ahead to the crossover semifinals of the 12th Asean Football Federation Women’s Championship tomorrow at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“I think the key (to the semifinals) is recovery. Probably this is the most brutal international tournament you have for women. Five games in nine days in these conditions is something I have not seen before,” said Stajcic last Tuesday after the hosts suffered a 0-1heartbreaker to Thailand.
Not only did the Thais snap the four-game winning streak of the Filipinas, they also emerged on top of Group A with 13 points while relegating their rivals, who wound up with 12 points, to second place.
Both unbeaten with three wins each, defending champion Vietnam and Myanmar were scheduled to dispute Group B honors last night at the Rizal Stadium.
Tournament play calls for the Group A topnotcher going up against the Group B runner-up and vice versa.
“To play 450 minutes in just nine days is something I have not seen before in high-level international football and even domestic football. It’s brutal and torturous,” Stajcic stressed. “We saw some players pass out there in the end. It’s an extremely grueling schedule.”
While grateful for finally getting a two-day break before the semis after playing every other day, the Australian tactician thought that this was hardly enough for his charges to recover against their prospective semis foe that played one less match in Group B.
“The fact that Myanmar and Vietnam have one game less and just one tough game against each other puts them in a big advantage. One less game in these conditions is a massive, massive advantage,” Stajcic pointed out.
He rued the close loss to Thailand on a defensive miscue that resulted in striker Kanyanat Chettabutr scoring the winning header in the 75th minute after the Filipinas also had created several scoring opportunities but lacked the finishing touch to convert them.
“It was a tough game. Both teams could have won the game. But unfortunately, one error cost us the game tonight. We had four or five chances and they (the Thais) had two to three chances, and ‘gifted’ them one as well,” said Stajcic.
“That happens in international football against good teams but we have to bounce back in the next game.”