Stajcic ready to prep PH women’s team for Fifa World Cup
MANILA, Philippines–The time for smashing old expectations is over. The time to establish new milestones is here. Count the months; there are about 18 of those to go before the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and Philippine women’s national football team coach Alen Stajcic wants to use each of them to a maximum.
“I’m sure we’ll do everything we can as a country to give this players the maximum possible chance of performing at that stage,” Stajcic said in a press conference on Thursday after the Philippines’ 2-0 defeat to South Korea in the semifinals of the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup.
He has already taken stock of the tools he can begin with, a lot of them vital intangibles that often take time to build but which the Philippines flaunted in its run to local football history.
“There’s a backbone of a really strong mentality within this group,” Stajcic said. “No doubt there’s plenty elements of the game we have to improve on, but belief and confidence and the effort and heart in the group [are] already world class.”
That confidence grew as the team progressed during the tournament, eliminating a key mental hurdle.
“I don’t think they believed they could truly compete in this level before this tournament,” Stajcic said. “I think the win against Thailand was a massive feather in their cap. To hold Australia to nil-nil at halftime was another amazing feat. To win two games in a tournament for the first time, then to win three, then to qualify for the World Cup … so many special moments that have added to the belief and confidence of this group.”
Even in the technical aspect, the Filipino women held their own against countries with a more advanced football culture.
“You know we played five matches in extra time and kicked a clean sheet in seven of the ten halves that we played. There’s only three halves where we really conceded a goal,” Stajcic explained.
Now it’s a matter of further trimming down on those moments of concessions. While the Philippines’ defense wasn’t brittle at all, it became susceptible to patient attacking like the one Korea flaunted. And the team has enough time to prepare for the World Cup and enough clout to milk everything from that preparation period.
After all, achieving history as the first football squad from the country to crash the sport’s grandest party comes with a certain responsibility.
“When you create history almost every time you step on the field … the bar of performance has been raised and the expectations now for the country have been raised and now everyone has to come,” Stajcic said.