With expanded field, Malditas are World Cup-dreaming
The Philippine women’s football team welcomed the expansion of the Women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams and the announcement that New Zealand and Australia will be cohosting the competition in 2023.
With more slots allotted for Asia in the prestigious tournament, goalkeeper Inna Palacios believes the 2023 tournament will be the country’s biggest chance of qualifying for a football World Cup.
The Malditas came narrowly close to reaching the Women’s World Cup two years ago after finishing sixth in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan.
This time, the Top 6 in the Asian Cup in India in 2022 will gain entry to the World Cup, while the seventh-ranked team will go through a playoff with another qualifier from a different confederation.
“I don’t think there is any other chance,” the 26-year-old Palacios said. “I think the best chance is now.”
Defender Hali Long said the previous Asian Cup performance showed that qualifying for the World Cup is a realistic target.
“It’s exciting,” Long said in the “So She Did” podcast. “It’s not that far away location-wise and time-wise because everything is kind of pushed back because of this pandemic. It’s so exciting and the fact that it’s also moved up to 32 teams from 24. It allows more Asian teams and we were right there last time.”
Qualifying for the World Cup would mean so much for the development of the sport in the country, Palacios said.
“So, when the Philippines qualifies, it won’t just uplift women’s football here, but football as a whole,” she said. “People will start taking it seriously because it shows that even with the limited resources we have, we can achieve something great. I hope that it will inspire more kids to take on the grassroots programs because it will help to bridge that gap—there’s a big gap from the youth to the senior level.” INQ
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