PH’s very own Filipinas football team (Photo courtesy of Her Football Club)
MANILA — With their sustained intensive training, extensive international play, and past track record, the Filipinas are strong gold medal contenders in the 32nd Cambodia Southeast Asian Games in May, according to football general secretary Atty. Ed Gastanes.
“We have a very real chance right now for our national women’s football team in the Cambodia SEA Games given its preparations and our committed and competent coaching staff,” stressed Gastanes during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum held at the PSC conference room of the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex on Tuesday.
“After the Filipinas captured the AFF Women’s Championship trophy last year, they are really looking forward to bagging another medal, if not the gold,” added the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) official.
After qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup by reaching the semifinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in India in January of last year, the charges of Australian coach Alen Stajcic attained another milestone after clinching the AFF Women’s Championship title in front of a banner hometown crowd at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium four months later.
Their victorious campaign included an empathic 4-0 win over vaunted Vietnam in the semifinals.
“There are actually two national women’s teams preparing for the SEA Games, one in Vietnam and the other in the Philippines,” noted Gastanes in the session supported by San Miguel Corporation (SMC), MILO, Philippine Sports Commission, Philippine Olympic Committee, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
“The SEA Games women’s finals will be another historic event for us,” added the PFF honcho, anticipating a championship showdown between the World Cup-bound Filipinas and the two-time reigning SEAG football queens.
Gunning for the gold would be another step up for the Filipinas, who copped a bronze medal in the 31st edition of the regional meet held in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The Nationals will be busy with tune-up games before the Cambodia SEA Games, with Gastanes announcing a slew of international competitions lined up for them in 2023.
“The Filipinas will kick off their season with the four-nation Pinatar Cup in Murcia, Spain,” he said of the tournament to be held from Feb. 15 to 21 also featuring Wales, Scotland, and Iceland in Murcia, Spain.
Gastanes pointed out the three European squads are all ranked higher than the Philippines in the FIFA women’s world ratings, with Welsh ranked at No. 16, Scots at No. 21, and Icelanders at No. 25. The Filipinas are rated at No. 53.
The PH squad opens its campaign against Welsh on Feb. 15, plays Scotland three days later, then winds up its stint in the short, single-round series against Iceland on Feb. 21, with all of the matches to be played at the Pinatar, Arena.
The Filipinas will plunge into action on April 3 to 11 with the first round of the Olympic women’s football qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics as they face Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Hong Kong in Group E at a venue still to be announced.
With the highest world ranking among the four teams, Gastanes was guardedly optimistic the Philippines would advance to the second round of the Asian Olympic qualifiers in October.
On the other hand, he said the Cambodia SEAG would serve as a key tune-up tournament for the wards of Stajcic before they compete in the FIFA Women’s World Cup slated from July 20 to Aug. 20 in Australia and New Zealand.
The PFF hopes to organize a tri-nation tournament for the Filipinas before they fly off to represent the country in the blue-ribbon football competition for the first time ever, he added.
The Filipinas are bracketed in Group A together with the Ferns, as the New Zealand squad is called, Norway, and Switzerland.
They are also expected to see action in the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games slated from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8 in Hangzhou, China before possibly winding up their hectic competition schedule to defend their AFF Women’s Championship trophy back home in November. (Amado Inigo/MTVN)