PH women’s team braces for ‘massive challenge’ in AFC Asian Cup
MANILA, Philippines—Alen Stajcic, the new head coach of the Philippine women’s national football team, said the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup would pose a different challenge from what the previous tournaments brought on.
The 47-year-old Australian said having more games in an expected hot Indian weather will push the team to its limits, and that is on top of the Philippines’ matches against higher-ranked Australia and Thailand, and also Indonesia in Group B.
“It’s an interesting tournament because for the first time it’s going to be 12 teams and it’s going to present different challenges for different teams, and an extra match as well,” said Stajcic via the Philippine Football Federation’s Twitter feed.
“The good part for us is we know who we play and we can really focus on that first match and make sure we’re ready to go when we get to India.”
— The Philippine Football Federation (@philfootball) October 28, 2021
The 2022 Asian Cup will be played in three cities across India—Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Pune—from January 20 to February 6. World no. 68 Philippines will be on an uphill battle in the group stage as it was drawn with no.11 Australia, no.39 Thailand, and no. 92 Indonesia.
Stajcic, who coached Australia from 2014 to 2019, actually envisioned having the Madiltas in the same group. Nevertheless, knowing who his team’s opponents will be is already a big step for them in terms of preparation.
“Five or six matches in a short space of time is is a heavy workload and particularly in India, where the conditions will probably be fairly hot I imagine so it’s going to be massive challenge,” said Stajcic, who is also looking forward to qualifying for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.
“You’ve always got things like injury fatigue, but then there’s also the pressure because this is the first time the Women’s World Cup has gone to 32 countries and obviously Australia and New Zealand will be there. You know this is a massive tournament and you know great pressure for every country to be able to deal with to try and reach that reach.”
Stajcic, who led Australia to the 2015 and 2019 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, also expressed his confidence with his current squad.
The Philippines did not play a single match the whole of 2020 but was able to go undefeated in the qualifiers for the 2022 Asian Cup with 2-1 wins over Nepal and Hong Kong.
“If we can keep improving and working hard in the next two, three months, and I’m very confident that we can see one of those births in the World Cup,” said Stajcic.