PFF chief explains why jumping pots for World Cup draw is crucial for Filipinas | Inquirer Sports
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PFF chief explains why jumping pots for World Cup draw is crucial for Filipinas

After a magical and historic rank to the top of Southeast Asia, the Filipinas hope to improve their chances of taking on the world. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

After a magical and historic rank to the top of Southeast Asia, the Filipinas hope to improve their chances of taking on the world. —GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

When he smiles, Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta Jr.’s eyes disappear into thin slits. As delegation chief of Team Philippines in the Tokyo Olympics last year, Araneta smiled a lot at the success of the country. This time, he is beaming with pride over a feat right in his own backyard.

“As a former national player, I take pride in what they (the Filipinas) have done. My hats off to them,” said Araneta, the joy in his face unmistakeable during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum.

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With the women’s national football team authoring another page of sporting history after ruling the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship, Araneta has set his sights on something bigger: boosting the squad’s world ranking to give it a better chance to perform creditably in the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

“We’re trying to get as many games as we can between now and October, when the [World Cup] draw will be held,” Araneta told the Inquirer later on Tuesday evening. “That would be important because we can also gain ranking points during friendlies.”

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And additional ranking points are crucial for the team that will be making a milestone appearance in football’s grandest stage.

Bumped-up ranking

In the AFF tournament, the Filipinas—the national team’s moniker—defeated world No. 12 Australia, No. 32 Vietnam and No. 43 Thailand on the way to the country’s first major football trophy in history. That meant the country is expected to get a bump up the world ranking, which is currently pegged at 53.

But the expected rise is not enough for coach Alen Stajcic’s wards. A few more ranking points could affect the draw for the World Cup and put the Filipinas in a better position to compete.

“Coach Alen told me that we need something like eight points to go from the fourth pot, where we are right now, to the third pot. That means one less higher-ranked for the team to face in the World Cup,” Araneta explained.

During the draw, countries are placed in four pots according to their world ranking. There will be eight groups of four national teams each during the tournament and each group will draw one country from each pot. Araneta said getting dropped into the third pot gives the Philippines a chance to be grouped with a country drawn from the lowest tier of qualifiers.“For now, Costa Rica, another team higher than us in the world rankings, has already extended an invitation for a friendly,” Araneta said.

The Philippines is also looking at a friendly with World Cup cohost New Zealand.

“Right now, we’re still figuring out where to play New Zealand; we can do it either in the United States or in Singapore,” Araneta said.

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New Zeland is No. 22 in the world and Cost Rica is ranked 37. A strong performance against both countries could give Stajcic and the PH girls a chance to jump pots.

Enormity of feat

In the PSA Forum, Araneta was joined by Inna Palacios, Hali Long and Camille Rodriguez, who said they have a firm grasp of the enormity of their accomplishments this year, particularly winning the AFF crown.

“I am also grateful for having been a part of the journey of this national team, seeing it from its lowest then getting better and better to reaching our highest potential at the moment,” Palacios, the country’s backup goalkeeper in the AFF tournament, said.

“This is a first, history … at home. It took a lot of heart to accomplish this and [the feat] will remain in our hearts forever,” Long, who has been capped 61 times since joining the team in 2015, added.

Rodriguez, meanwhile, said it was “Special to [win the AFF title] at home and for your country. Special to know that you know your love ones were out there in the stands supporting us.”

The Philippines defeated Thailand, 3-0, in front of 8,275 fans at Rizal Memorial Stadium to bag the AFF trophy. INQ

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