PH women gun for historic World Cup berth vs Chinese Taipei
The Philippines’ women’s football team has a chance to accomplish something extraordinary when it plunges into knockout quarterfinals action against Chinese Taipei on Sunday in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup in India.
With a win, the Filipinos can achieve a first in sports history: booking for the country a spot in the grandest football stage of all, the World Cup.
“[T]hat really is a crunch game against Chinese Taipei,” said Philippines coach Alen Stajcic.
A loss on Sunday plunges the Philippines in a more torturous route to next year’s Women’s World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand. Five berths are at stake in the ongoing tournament, which means the winners of the quarterfinal matches all advance to the football showcase.
The fifth team will come from the survivor of a playoff round among the quarterfinal losers. And for the Philippines, that would be a grueling phase.
If Korea loses to Australia in their quarterfinal showdown, the Filipinos will face the Koreans outright for the last World Cup berth. A loss to Korea in that playoff duel won’t slam the door on the Filipinos just yet. The country will plunge into an intercontinental playoffs along with teams from Europe, South America, Africa and Asia that also failed to make it via their own qualifiers.If Australia loses to Korea, however, the three quarterfinal losers will play in a round-robin phase with the one who winds up with the best record nailing the World Cup ticket.
As cohost of the World Cup, Australia is automatically qualified to the event.
So the stakes are definitely raised against Chinese Taipei. Fortunately, this is a team that has been raising bars in the Asian Cup.
Best foot forward
“[T]he first bit of history was beating Thailand for the first time,” Stajcic said. “Now we’ve won two matches in the Asian Cup for the first time in history. I believe [the victory over Indonesia was a] record score for us in an Asian Cup so that’s another bit of history. And also I believe it’s our first time of the knockout stages of the Asian Cup.”
“Every time you put in performances like that … you just keep raising the ceiling and the expectations of what we can achieve.”
Stajcic said the team will put its best foot forward against the Taiwanese, with the likes of skipper Tahnai Annis, Katrina Guillou, Sarina Bolden, Jessica Miclat and Malea Cesar—who all produced goals in a 6-0 rout of Indonesia—expected to be called upon along with Chandler McDaniel, the lone goal scorer in a milestone win over Thailand.
“Best part about that is it doesn’t matter who comes in; they’ve done a good job for the team and I don’t think this team had [this kind of depth] in the past,” said Stajcic. “The fact that just about every player in the squad had game time … and maintained such a high level, it’s really a good indication on how far the squad has progressed.
“It doesn’t matter who we put out there, the eleven players who start and the five who potentially come on in the quarterfinals, six potentially who can come on. What the Philippines has seen now is that the team has a lot of depth that can really add value to the game if they come on,” he added.
“The time we spent together for this campaign is what makes it different,” Annis said. “We’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to have such quality time together and it’s the most time we’ve had since over a period of time and it really shows.”