Coach Alen Stajcic feels there’s no need to qualify the Philippines’ 1-0 victory over Australia late Monday night. It was a statement victory no matter who the Aussies on the pitch were.
“We’re not playing against the minnow of the world; you’re playing against a country that has been in the World Cup quarterfinals, you know, a team that [has been] on top of the world for a long time,” said Stajcic, who once handled the Australian women’s team, the Matildas, before finding his way calling the shots for the Philippines.
The Matildas came to Manila for the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship sans their big guns, with majority of the players here coming from their U23 squad. But that hardly takes away anything from the Filipinas, who fought with grit until Sarina Bolden’s goal in the 60th minute propelled the Philippines to the victory.
“To limit Australia to, you know, maybe four chances or four chances throughout 90 minutes is really an amazing effort,” he said. “I don’t think you can underscore how big an effort that is to keep a team like that down to just four or five chances throughout a match. From that perspective, the whole team and [goalkeeper] Olivia [McDaniel] did a fantastic job.”
The Filipinas will look to summon that same grit and finish again as they battle Singapore in a Group A showdown on Wednesday at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m., with the possibility of another three points likely to boost Stajcic’s chances of reaching the semifinals of the regional championship.
World Cup buildup
The result against Australia would benefit the team a great deal not only for the duration of the tournament, but also in the buildup for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.
“So for us, the match that they brought in the first half was very pleasing. But we addressed a few things at half time, and the players came out raring to go and show that they could compete. So I’m really pleased with the result and the performance,” Stajcic said.
Bolden’s goal epitomized her role as one of the players who could deliver in big moments for the Filipinas.
The striker’s goal in the penalty shootout against Chinese-Taipei in the quarterfinals of the Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup secured the country’s historic World Cup while her equalizing goal helped set up the Philippines’ 2-1 win over Myanmar for the bronze in the recent Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.
McDaniel also came through for the Filipinas, her pair of saves in a matter of seconds in the 70th denied Australia a likely equalizer. But Stajcic hailed the collective effort of his team in limiting Australia’s chances, another positive aspect the Filipinas will try to sustain for at least the rest of the group stage.