After becoming the first men’s or women’s national team in the Philippines to qualify for the soccer World Cup, Alen Stajcic’s team make their final preparations before travelling Down Under for the tournament.
After a journey spanning more than 25 years, the Philippines women’s national team, known as the Filipinas, has finally secured their place at the Women’s World Cup. This historic achievement marks the first time a team from the Philippines, regardless of gender, will compete on the global stage. Led by coach Alen Stajcic, the Filipinas are determined to make their mark in Group A, despite being the lowest-ranked team in the group. With a mix of emerging talent and experienced players, they aim to showcase their tenacity, skill, and determination on the field.
On a memorable day in January 2022, Sarina Bolden etched her name in Filipino football history by scoring the decisive penalty in a shootout victory over Taiwan. This remarkable triumph not only secured the Philippines a place in the semi-finals of the Women’s Asian Cup but also granted them the coveted prize of automatic qualification to the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Who are the key players for the Filipinas?
The Philippines boast a squad that combines youthful exuberance with seasoned professionals. Two key players to watch out for are forwards Isabella Flanigan and Sarina Bolden. Flanigan, a prodigious 18-year-old talent, possesses exceptional trickery and close control, making her a dynamic option off the bench or a potent secret weapon from the start. On the other hand, Bolden, a cold-blooded goalscorer, displayed her nerves of steel during the decisive penalty shootout against Chinese Taipei. With her keen eye for goal and physical strength, Bolden will be a force to be reckoned with leading the line.
Defensively, the Filipinas rely on the leadership and experience of centre-back Hali Long. With over 70 caps to her name, Long is a commanding presence at the back, excelling in tackles and reading the game. Her leadership qualities and defensive prowess will be crucial in the team’s bid to compete against strong opposition.
In the midfield, captain Tahnai Annis leads by example. As the top scorer during the qualifiers, Annis showcased her ability to find the back of the net and create scoring opportunities. With her experience and composure, the 34-year-old midfielder will be instrumental in keeping the team ticking over and providing the necessary stability from the engine room.
Getting to grips with the Group A challenge
Placed in Group A alongside Switzerland, Norway, and co-hosts New Zealand, the Philippines face a challenging task to advance to the knockout stages. As the lowest-ranked team in the group, coach Alen Stajcic and his players are well aware of the uphill battle they face. However, there is a determination – not just to participate but to compete fiercely against their more highly regarded opponents.
The Filipinas’ prospects will depend on their ability to execute Stajcic’s game plan effectively. They will need to maintain a resilient defensive structure and take advantage of counter-attacking opportunities. The team’s work ethic, discipline, and unity will be vital in overcoming the odds and causing upsets in the tournament.
The Philippines women’s national team’s journey to the 2023 Women’s World Cup is a testament to their dedication and perseverance over the years. As the first Filipino team, male or female, to compete at a World Cup, the Filipinas have already secured a place in history. Despite the challenges posed by their Group A opponents, the team is determined to make their mark and prove that they belong on the global stage.
With emerging talents like Isabella Flanigan and seasoned professionals like Sarina Bolden, Hali Long, and Tahnai Annis, the Filipinas possess a blend of youth and experience that could surprise their opponents. While they may be the underdogs, they are determined not to go down without a fight. As they step onto the world stage, the Filipinas carry the hopes and dreams of a nation, and their performance will undoubtedly inspire future generations of Filipino footballers.