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MANILA, Philippines – Following a historic run in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Philippine women’s football team returns to the international scene to vie for an elusive Asian Games medal in China.
“My aim is to win it, obviously, it’s everyone’s goal to win something special like this,” said new Fiipinas coach Mark Torcaso of his inaugural tournament with the national team.
The 44th-ranked Filipinas kick off their campaign against Hong Kong in Group E at 4 pm on Friday, September 22, at the Wenzhou Sports Centre Stadium.
“Our aim is to get as far as possible, hopefully play at the final game, but also from our perspective, we understand that this is a tournament for us to prepare ourselves for some upcoming competitions,” said Torcaso.
After world No. 77 Hong Kong, the Filipinas take on world No. 20 Korea on September 25, and 51st-ranked Myanmar on September 28.
The 19th edition of the quadrennial and continental tournament, which was postponed last year due to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases in China, features 16 teams divided into five groups.
Only the group topnotchers and the three best group runners-up will advance to the knockout round.
The Filipinas last battled Hong Kong in the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament where they romped to a 4-0 victory at the Hisor Central Stadium in Tajikistan last April.
Alen Stajcic was still the Filipinas’ head coach back then, but he’s now the lead tactician of Perth Glory, a professional club in Australia, after parting ways with the Philippine Football Federation following the team’s group stage exit at the World Cup.
Replacing Stajcic is another Australian in 42-year-old Torcaso, who was only appointed as the new Filipinas head coach last August.
After the Asian Games, the Filipinas will participate in the second round of the Olympic qualifiers that will be held during the last week of October in Australia.
“It’s more about a way for us to really see how these players can play in competitive competition,” said Torcaso.
“But definitely we want to go deep and as far in the comp as we can, so hopefully, we finish on the podium or win the whole thing if possible.”
Headlining the roster for the 19th edition of the Asian Games are the 14 players in the World Cup: goalkeepers Olivia McDaniel and Kiara Fontanilla, defenders Reina Bonta, Jessika Cowart, Sofia Harrison, and Hali Long, midfielders Anicka Castañeda, Sara Eggesvik, Quinley Quezada, and Jaclyn Sawicki, forwards Sarina Bolden, Katrina Guillou, Chandler McDaniel, and Meryll Serrano.
World Cup reserve players Inna Palacios and Isabella Pasion also made the final cut for new head coach Torcaso.
Completing the slots in the 21-player squad are veteran full-back Eva Madarang, midfielder Kaya Hawkinson, 16-year-old Natalie Oca, longtime national team member and former Ateneo team captain Camille Rodriguez, and UAAP Season 81 Rookie of the Year Alisha del Campo.
“I wouldn’t say it’s like a redemption, I mean I’ve been with the team for years,” shared Madarang, who is finally back in the squad after missing out on the World Cup last July.
“I’ve been cut before from a tournament, so it’s not like I’m just gonna redeem myself by going to another tournament. I’m committed to this team.”
“Like I said before, they’re my family and my friends, so not getting chosen for a tournament is not gonna alter my decision on playing for the Philippines,” the 26-year-old Madarang added. – Rappler.com