MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine women’s football team had two objectives at the start of the AFF Women’s Championship: to maximize its home field advantage and secure a first-ever podium finish.
But the Filipinas did more than just that, dethroning defending champion Vietnam in a stunning Final Four win and crushing Thailand in the championship duel to claim a historic title.
It is the Philippines’ maiden AFF Women’s Championship crown, marking only the fourth time in the history of the competition that a host nation ended up on top.
Vietnam accomplished the feat twice in 2006 and 2012, while Myanmar won a penalty shoot-out in 2007 to edge Thailand for the championship.
The AFF conquest is the latest in the growing list of achievements attained by head coach Alen Stajcic, who ranked this title with the Filipinas at the top of his list.
Stajcic, though, said the players deserve the credit as they continue to raise their level of performance since his appointment in October last year.
“To be able to play like that after seven games in 14 days, I can’t have words to describe how resilient and mentality tough they are,” said the former Australia tactician.
Aside from the desire and passion that the players have shown, Stajcic also touched on their humility and gratitude, which make them a unique squad to handle.
“It’s really a privilege to be around this group,” Stajcic said.
For team captain Tahnai Annis, winning the monumental title was made sweeter by the fact that they did it on home soil.
“It was a really special thing to be able to finally play back here in the Philippines and bring home the first trophy for the Philippines for women’s football.”
Following a successful AFF Women’s Championship campaign, Stajcic looks forward to “playing in every FIFA window” as they wait for an official schedule in the few weeks.
Then in October, Stajcic bared that the Filipinas might play games in North America as well.
“As I’ve said many different times, we’ll need to play in every different continent,” Stajcic said.
“The more experience we get playing against North American, South American, European teams, the better off we’re gonna be.”
Stajcic said facing teams from different continents is crucial to the Filipinas’ buildup for the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year, where they will go up against world heavyweights like USA, Sweden, France, Canada, and Spain.
“At the moment, we’re just gonna try and sort as many different continents and playing styles and cultures and really grow the experience of this group.”
The final draw for the World Cup 2023 will take place in October and goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel thinks that they will be “ready for battle” whoever comes their way.
“Preference wise, I mean, you only get better by playing the tougher teams so I think we want the best so we can become better, so bring it on,” said McDaniels. – Rappler.com