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MANILA, Philippines – In its 10th appearance in the Asian Cup, the Philippine women’s football team aims to come out stronger than ever.
Team captain Tahnai Annis believes in the potential of the 2022 Asian Cup squad, which is a mix of experienced veterans and talented newcomers, under the mentorship of former Australian Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic.
“We got some players from 2018 who got some experience playing on this high-level kind of games and bright newcomers – young players who we can teach, hopefully show them how to be successful at this high level,” said Annis.
Katrina Guillou, who plays for Piteå IF in the Swedish top-tier league, is one of the most-awaited newcomers in the squad. Dominque Randle, Isabella Flanigan, Kiara Fontanilla, and former youth players Keanne Alamo and Carleigh Frilles will also debut.
Annis will lead together with defender Hali Long. Forward Chandler McDaniel, who made an impact in the qualifiers, returns to the squad with other mainstays goalkeeper Inna Palacios, midfielders Jessica Miclat, Castañeda sisters Sara and Anicka, Camille Rodriguez, and defenders Tara Shelton and Sofia Harrison.
WE League players Sarina Bolden (Chifure AS Elfen) and Quinley Quezada (JEF United Chiba Ladies) were released from their Japanese club teams and will return to the national team for the first time since the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
In 2018, the Philippines finished third in the group behind China and Thailand to secure a berth in the battle for fifth place, where the winner will earn a berth to the FIFA World Cup. But the national team fell to South Korea, 5-0, which capped off its stint in the continental tournament.
But the memory of securing a win against host country Jordan in the Asian Cup back in 2018, gives Annis hope that the Philippines stands a chance against the tough Group B competition composed of Thailand, Australia, and Indonesia.
“It was a definitely a night to remember because it was our very first [game] with the national team and it was great because of the atmosphere with the host team and at that time, we had fans, so it was a big adrenaline rush for us,” Annis recalled.
“I feel even more confident, spending so much time together in training camp. The staff are just as excited.”
Stajcic, who led Australia to qualify for two World Cups, mentored the Philippine team for two and a half months in a training camp in Irvine, California.
The Philippines begins its campaign with a rematch against Thailand on Friday, January 21, at 8 pm. In 2018, Thailand defeated the Philippines, 3-1, to clinch a berth in the FIFA Women’s World Cup and advance to the semifinals. – Rappler.com