MANILA, Philippines – After falling short in the past 12 tries, the Philippine women’s football team finally ended its winless drought against Thailand to begin its 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign in India.
“They deserve to be rewarded with a lot of applause and a lot of praise, but ultimately it’s just one game. So we’ll enjoy it… we’ll enjoy the victory. It’s a special victory for the country,” said Philippine head coach Alen Stajcic after the 1-0 stunner on Friday, January 21.
It was a massive feat for the Filipinas as they have experienced both narrow (0-1) and lopsided (0-12) losses against Thailand in the past.
Stajcic acknowledged that the victory was a “big weight off the shoulders of the players who have been in this team for a long time.”
The thriller also felt like a personal milestone for Stajcic after coming out triumphant in his Philippine coaching debut.
Stajcic, who was just appointed last October 2021, said a lot of things went right on the field for the Filipinas and described his players’ effort on defense as exceptional.
“Upfront, we created six or seven goal scoring opportunities and actually scored maybe the luckiest chance, but the other six or seven chances I thought we created were all awesome,” said Stajcic, the former Australian women’s football team head coach.
Katrina Guillou, who earned her first ever appearance for the team, found the back of the net at the 13th minute, but was flagged offside. She then hit the crossbar 15 minutes later with a long-range strike.
It was Chandler McDaniel who eventually found the winner as she launched a screamer at the 81st minute to notch the team’s first goal and victory in the tournament.
Despite the impressive performance of the two players, Stajcic refused to pick favorites and commended the entire squad, including the substitutes – Malea Louise Cesar, Sara Castañeda, Carleigh Frilles, Anicka Castañeda, and Isabella Flanigan – who all came in different time periods during the second half.
“I thought the whole team as a unit was the impressive factor… I could really go through the whole team.”
Sarina Bolden was noticeably absent from the team sheet, but Stajcic addressed this concern and confirmed that she contracted COVID.
But Stajcic hopes the 25-year-old forward will recover just in time for their next group stage match versus the mighty Matildas.
The Philippines will play Australia for its second group stage match on Monday, January 24, 6 pm at the Mumbai Football Arena. – Rappler.com