HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam – They were the underdogs. They finished fourth last year and most of their players had little or no international experience. They had only six weeks to train. Some girls could barely get a passport in time. Others had never been on an airplane before.
But someone forgot to tell the Philippine U14 Girls National Football Team that they were destined for defeat.
In the Asian Football Confederation Regional Championship for Southeast Asia in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, this week the band of 13 and 14 year old Filipinas faced off against a powerhouse Vietnamese team that trained throughout the year and had the home field advantage.
The tenacious teenagers from the Philippines refused to be intimidated. After a stunning 1-0 upset defeat of Vietnam on Wednesday, and an easy 5-0 victory over Cambodia and 6-0 win over Singapore, the girls from the Philippines emerged undefeated and at the top of every category in the tournament.
Most overall points based on most wins: the Philippine team is first with 9 points, followed by Vietnam with 6.
Most goals scored: The Philippines is at the top with 12.
The number of goals scored against the Philippines during the tournament: 0.
The number of red and yellow card penalties for the Philippines: 0.
In the fiercely competitive match on Wednesday, the Philippine and Vietnamese teams fought careful defensive battles with few opportunities for either side to score. The stalemate was broken when Philippine striker Lindsay Whaley fired a rocket past the Vietnam Goalkeeper Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy at 28 minutes into the first half.
“Vietnam is technically and tactically strong, but our girls played hard,” said Let Dimzon, head coach of the Philippines team. “I was surprised at the intensity of our players. The girls came to play.”
The Vietnamese team was stymied by goalkeeper Yasmin Elauria, who built a brick wall in front of the Philippine goal, while forward Annika Velez kept the pressure on the opponent’s keeper. Midfielders Joyce Semacio and Glynnes dela Cruz, backed up by defenders Tenelyn Otom and Jennifer Baroin, kept the action on the Vietnamese side of the pitch for much of the game.
On Thursday, the Philippine team made short work of Cambodia, which was composed of a struggling team of inexperienced players. Philippine scorers included Joyce Semacio at 26 minutes into the game, Itsuko Bacatan at 44, Lindsay Whaley at 56, and Chloe Hails at 67 minutes. Cambodia accidentally knocked the ball into its own goal at 55 minutes into the game.
The Philippine team takes the day off on Friday and will play Myanmar in the semi-finals on Saturday. Vietnam will take on Thailand the same day. The winners of those two games will play in the championship on Sunday.
According to coach Dimzon, all three of the teams left in the tournament – Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – are tough competitors that play with a high level of technical skill. None will be an easy victory for the Philippines.
The 18 girls on the Philippine national team were chosen based on nationwide tryouts. This year’s Philippine team is made up of Stacey Ann Arthur of Metro Manila; Jennifer Baroin of Makati City; Princess Beth Caparida of San Carlos City; Jan Reese Jumawan of Cebu City; Tenelyn Otom of San Carlos City; Lindsay Whaley of Subic Bay; Itsuko Bacatan of Cebu City; Patricia Erika Francisco of Davao City; Chloe Anne Hails of Metro Manila; Francesca Anne Marie Suerte of Ilo-Ilo City; and Annika Velez of Manila; Glynnes Dela Cruz of Metro Manila; Joyce Semacio of Davao City; Arantxa Mari Trebol of Cebu City; Yasmin May Elauria of Olongapo City; Alexandrea Gumilao of Cebu; Tejanee Marie Isulat of San Carlos City; Mikayla Grace Simons of Hong Kong.
The coaching staff includes Assistant Coach Joyce Landagan; Goalkeeper Coach Melissa Chris Marquez; and physiotherapist Katherine Anne Soriano.
The tournament is being held at Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. – Rappler.com
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