MANILA, Philippines – The next generation of Filipino footballers have found their newest inspiration in the form of the Philippine women’s team.
That is according to national team head coach Alen Stajcic as the Filipina booters carved their place in history by sending the country to the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time.
On the brink of elimination, the Philippines displayed steely nerves and edged Chinese Taipei in a thrilling penalty shoot-out, 4-3, on Sunday, January 30, to advance to the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup semifinals, a feat that also merits a coveted World Cup berth.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement by the group. That’s a moment in history for the country and no one can ever take that away from the group. It’s a new bar that’s been set,” Stajcic said.
“Now every young kid, girl and boy, back home in the Philippines can be inspired and get to the World Cup themselves.”
“I know that the group is really proud of each other but I know that they’re even more proud that they’ve inspired the next generation,” the Australian mentor added.
Stajcic said the Filipinas have come a long way since watching them in the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan.
During that edition, the Philippines succumbed to Korea in the battle-for-fifth game, 0-5, and missed out on a chance to reach the World Cup.
This time, though, the Filipinas have won three of their four matches – losing only to world No. 11 Australia – on the way to setting up a rematch with the Koreans in the semifinals.
Stajcic, the former head coach of the Australian women’s football team, bared he would not have taken the job to helm the Philippine squad last year if he did not see any potential.
“I watched them play four years ago in Jordan while I was scouting as an opposition coach and I knew there was something there – a potential for an extremely inexperienced group,” Stajcic said.
“For them to progress this quickly, I’m just running out of superlatives to describe what an amazing achievement this is.”
Stajcic likened the Filipinas’ sensational victory to the time the Australian men’s football team qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 32 years in 2005 following a win over Uruguay, which incidentally was also decided by a penalty shoot-out.
“It’s a remarkable achievement, once-in-a-lifetime, one that has never been done before,” Stajcic said. “I watched the Australian men’s team not qualify for a World Cup for 32 years and I knew the heartbreak every four years.”
“It just brought the whole country to tears and I’m hoping it has had a similar effect back in the Philippines knowing that these girls have showed the way for football back in the Philippines.” – Rappler.com