Philippine football

FAST FACTS: The history-making Philippine women’s football team

Ariel Ian Clarito
FAST FACTS: The history-making Philippine women’s football team

PHENOMENAL. The Philippine women's football team has become local sports' latest darlings.

ASIAN FOOTBALL CONFEDERATION

Here are some interesting facts about the Philippine women’s football team that has given so much pride to an entire nation

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine women’s football team has become the toast of the country after their history-making victory over Chinese Taipei on January 30 in the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

The win not only catapulted the Philippines to the semifinals along with traditional regional powerhouses Japan, South Korea, and China, but it also awarded the Philippines a spot in the 2023 FIFA World Cup. Before this achievement, no team from the Philippines has ever qualified for the most prestigious football event.

Here are some interesting facts about the team that has given so much pride to an entire nation.

One of the youngest squads in the Asian Cup

With an average age of just 23 years old, the Philippines is tied with host India for the third-youngest rosters in the competition. 

The youngest teams in the tournament are Indonesia which has an average age of 21.6 years old, and Myanmar with an average age of 22.7. The oldest teams are South Korea which has an average age of 27.9, and China with an average age of 27 years old.

Team captain Tahnai Annis, who scored two goals against Indonesia, is the most seasoned campaigner of the Philippines at 32 years old. No other player in the lineup is over 30 years old. 

Twelve players in the Philippine squad are aged 24 years old and below. The youngest is Isabella Flanigan, who is turning 17 years old on February 22. Flanigan, who came in as a reliever in the games versus Thailand and Indonesia, is the third-youngest player in the entire tournament.

There are three other teenagers in the Philippine team – 18-year-old Keanne Alamo, who was part of the Philippine under-16 team in 2019; 19-year-old Carleigh Frilles, who was the captain of the Philippine under-14 team in 2016; and 18-year-old defender Malea Cesar. 

Frilles and Cesar have proven to be key components of the Philippine rotation. Cesar scored a goal against Indonesia while Frilles was one of the three substitutes in the quarterfinals victory over Chinese Taipei.

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Veteran foundation

The Philippine team has seen various iterations of its roster in the different tournaments that it has participated. But there have been four players who have served as constants for the team. On their veteran shoulders were built the foundation of the national women’s team program which has progressed to where it is now, a World Cup qualifier and one of the top four teams in Asian football.

The longest serving national team member is Camille Rodriguez. The 27-year-old former Ateneo captain first played for the national senior team as a 16-year-old in the 2011 AFF Championships where she scored a goal against Malaysia. The Zamboanga City native has scored eight goals in 33 appearances for the national team.

Goalkeeper Inna Palacios has been sidelined for the most part of the tournament due to injury, but the two-time UAAP Best Goalkeeper for De La Salle University has the most caps at 47 among the current national team members. 

The anchor of the Philippine defense in the Asian Cup, co-captain Hali Long, is also the leading goal scorer among all current members of the national team. Long, a teammate of Rodriguez for the Kaya-Iloilo club, has scored 11 goals in 45 appearances for the Philippine team. She first donned the Philippine uniform as a 21-year-old in the 2016 AFF Championships.

Another DLSU Lady Booter, Sara Castaneda, made her debut for the senior squad of the national team in the 2015 AFF Championships. Castaneda, who scored the first point for the Philippines in the penalty shootout versus Chinese Taipei, is second to Long among active national team members in goals scored with 10. The 25-year-old Castaneda is third in appearances for the national team with 44.

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Globetrotting pros 

Six members of the Philippine team have harnessed their skills in different parts of the world. 

Tahnai Annis began her professional career in 2012 with Þór/KA in the Úrvalsdeild kvenna, the top tier women’s league in Iceland. She was one of the club’s top goal scorers and played for the Þór/KA in the UEFA Women’s Champion’s League.

Katrina Giullou is one of seven in the tournament who plays club football in Sweden. Three members of Australia’s Matildas, two Japanese, and one Thai are also pro footballers in Sweden. 

Giullou is a midfielder for Piteå IF, which sees action in Sweden’s top-division women’s league, Damallsvenskan. She had previously played professionally in the premier women’s league of Finland.

Another Philippine midfielder, Jessica Miclat, is a member of the Aris Limassol, a professional ballclub which plays in the Cyprus league. Miclat also has played for AaB Kvinder in the Elitedivisionen, the top women’s division in Denmark.

The Philippine team’s utility, Eva Madarang, who has been switched to right back from her natural forward position, has been a fixture in Europe since 2020. She began her pro career in the Italian second division for Roma Calcio Femminile. She then transferred in 2021 to Spain after she was signed by Segunda División Pro club CD Pozoalbense.

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Two Filipina forwards who scored against Chinese Taipei began their post-college football careers in the Taiwan league. Quinley Quezada and Sarina Bolden both played for Xinbei Hangyuan in the Taiwan Mulan Football League in 2020. The two eventually took their talents to the WE League, the first fully-professional women’s soccer league in Japan, in 2021.

Quezada plays for the JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies, who currently sit at fourth place in the WE League standings. A teammate of Quezada in Japan is Cheng Ssu-yu, the Chinese Taipei goalkeeper whom the Philippines went up against in Sunday’s quarterfinals penalty shoot-out. 

Bolden, who delivered the clincher for the Philippines against Chinese Taipei, is part of the Chifure AS Elfen Saitama.

Top-notch coaching staff

The Philippines’ outstanding performance on the pitch did not come by accident as it’s a product of long hours of planning and preparation by a braintrust made up of elite level strategists. 

Much has been said about the brilliance of Philippine head coach Alen Stajcic as he’s one of the most accomplished tacticians in women’s football. 

In 2014, he coached Australia to a second-place finish in the Asian Championships. He also led the Matildas to a Round of 16 victory over Brazil in the 2015 World Cup to earn for Australia a spot in the quarterfinals where it was beaten by Japan. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, he steered Australia to another quarterfinal finish. With Stajcic at the helm, Australia reached No. 5 in the FIFA world rankings.

Stajcic is surrounded by a crew which leaves no detail unexamined in ensuring the Filipina booters are ready whenever they take the field, regardless of who the opponent is. 

When Stajcic was appointed head coach of the Philippines, he knew he needed help so he brought along with him Nahuel Arrarte. The two worked together in the Australian national women’s football team where Arrarte was assistant coach and video coordinator from 2017 to 2019. 

Last year, Arrarte joined the coaching staff of the Western Sydney Wanderers FC, a professional club in Australia’s premier league. One of Western Sydney’s owners is Philippine team manager Jefferson Cheng.

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One member of the coaching staff who understands the thrill and pressure of putting on the national team jersey is Patrice Impelido. As the former captain of the Philippine team, Impelido has played against almost the entire field in the Asian Cup. Impelido had her first cap in the 2005 Southeast Asian Games. Her last stint as part of the national team was in the 2019 SEA Games which the country hosted. Impelido currently serves as one of the coaches in the Astra Soccer Academy, a football academy based in Canada. 

Olivia McDaniel and Kiara Fontanilla have both impressed in this tournament, and part of the credit goes to goalkeeping coach Ludovic Antunes, who has extensive experience in developing young goalkeepers. He has been a goalkeeper coach, evaluator, and instructor since 2012 in various training clubs across Paris, France. 

Women’s football legend Marielle Benitez, while doing the coverage for the Philippine-Chinese Taipei duel, remarked that she had not seen any of the Philippine players cramping, a testament to the superb conditioning of the squad. In charge of the strength and conditioning of the squad is Italian Luca Tonetti, who also is part of the Western Sydney Wanderers as head strength and conditioning coach. 

Losing record vs rest of the field

Host India is the only team among the 11 participating squads in the Asian Cup that the Philippines had not played against in the last 14 years. 

Out of the 10 teams it had previously battled, the Philippines had only beaten two teams, Iran and Indonesia. 

The Philippines’ pre-tournament head-to-head record against the teams it was going to face in the Asian Cup was not very encouraging.

World No. 38 Thailand owned 12 prior victories over the Filipinas. The most lopsided of these wins came in the 2008 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship when it thrashed the Philippines, 12-0. 

Their most recent match in the 2019 AFF Championship saw the Philippines race to a 2-1 lead courtesy of a brace by Quinley Quezada, only for Thailand to recover with three second-half goals to win the game.

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Australia, currently 11th in the FIFA world rankings, defeated the Philippines in their only encounter in 2008, 7-0.

The Philippines had a more respectable record – one win, one loss, and one draw – versus world No. 94 Indonesia, the only team the Philippines has played thus far that is lower in the FIFA world rankings. In the 2018 AFF Championship, Eva Madarang scored in extra time to salvage a 3-3 draw for the Philippines.

The Philippines’ quarterfinal foe, Chinese Taipei, is a team it had not previously beaten. In the 2018 AFC Olympic qualifiers, Chinese Taipei easily dispatched the Philippines, 5-0. Their last matchup happened in 2020 in the second round of AFC Olympic qualifiers. Chinese Taipei overcame an early 2-0 lead by the Philippines and pulled off a 4-2 victory. – Rappler.com 

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