A Philippine national women’s team mixed with young and old players alike went into practice in Tashkent, Uzbekistan yesterday with the goal of making it to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Malditas, who are coached by Marlon Maro, are getting ready for their two matches in Group F of the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualification this Saturday.
“This is a new and exciting team to watch. They are very motivated. It’s a combination of young and old players, and there’s a lot of scorers,” said Maro in a virtual huddle with scribes before their practice.
Also in the meeting were officials of the Philippine Football Federation, led by their president Mariano Araneta and secretary general Ed Gastanes.
Maro said he is glad that all members of the team tested negative following COVID-19 swab tests that were done on their contingent upon arrival at the airport.
Members of the team came from a player pool of the national squad, which held a training camp and player tryouts last in Orange County, California, United States.
On Saturday, the Philippines, which is ranked 68th in the FIFA Rankings, will have their first games against the 101st ranked Nepal at 3 p.m. at the JAR Stadium.
Then, on Sept. 24, the Malditas will clash with Hong Kong (ranked 78th).
Twenty-two players, spearheaded by team captain and goalie Inna Palacios were called up for the qualifiers.
Veteran Hali Long made it back as the co-captain, with former youth national team players Arianna LePage and Isabelle Mapanao as among the new additions to the squad.
Two experienced members, Tahnai Annis and Ryley Bugay, are still with their club teams in Japan, and won’t make it.
“We will miss their services, as they are still playing for professional teams in Japan. They are a plus factor. But the team is in a very competitive situation still. And we play with out strengths,” said Maro.
Jessica Miclat, who was part of the team that competed in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2018 in Jordan, will also make her return to the squad.
The Malditas will have a new goalies in Olivia McDaniel and former under-16 player Isabelle Mapanao.
“Qualification to the 12-country Asian Cup is a priority as it means that the team will be in contention for the five spots for Asia in the Women’s World Cup. There are many opportunities to qualify for the World Cup but we have to control our destiny so we have to make the most of these chances given to us,” said Araneta in a statement.