Filipinas path to Paris a long and winding road
The Philippine women’s football team is expected to breeze through the initial stage of its next ambitious goal: a trip to the City of Love for next year’s Summer Olympics.
But even after being drawn in Group E for the first round of the 2024 Paris Olympics Qualifying Tournament slated April 3 to 11 along with perceived lightweights Hong Kong, Tajikistan and Pakistan, national coach Alen Stajcic expects plenty of pitfalls for the Filipinas.
“It’s a long and difficult road to qualifying for Paris,” Stajcic said after the draw ceremony held on Thursday at the offices of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“But qualifying through Round 1 and trying to get some matches against the big nations of the AFC is a very enticing and appealing prospect,” he added.
Two Asian slots are at stake in the Olympics, a goal the Filipinas hope to fulfill after securing a historic berth in this year’s Fifa (International Federation of Association Football) Women’s World Cup.
The seven group winners will advance to the second round to join Asian Cup champion China, South Korea, Japan, North Korea and Australia, which all gained direct spots based on their Fifa rankings.
From there, the 12 remaining squads will be split into three groups to contest the four spots in the final round—the three group winners and the best second-placed squad.
The four teams will be bracketed in a pair of two-legged playoffs to determine the teams that will head to the Olympics.
The Filipinas have performed well against their first round foes in recent past, having beaten Hong Kong in the Asian Cup Qualifiers back in 2021 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan in the 2020 Olympic qualifier back in 2018 in the latter’s capital of Dushanbe.