FIRST, the Philippines shocked fancied Australia in a homecoming game to remember. Then the host nation ripped Singapore in a seven-star performance.
And from all indications, the Filipinas have no plans of easing up in the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship.
“I expect the team to continue to keep a high tempo,” midfield dynamo Jessica Miclat said as the Filipino booters gun for their third consecutive win tonight against Malaysia at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
“I think everybody on the bench is ready to go at any moment. All the players, whether we started in the first game or the second game, everyone is ready to give a hundred percent and that’s all we’re going to give on the field in our next games,” she added.
With their 1-0 reversal over the Matildas U23 and 7-nil shutout of the Lionesses, the Filipinas grabbed pole position in Group A with six points ahead of Thailand (four points), which salvaged a 2-2 stalemate with Australia Wednesday.
Malaysia, the Philippines’ opponent in the 7 p.m. fixture, runs third with two points off back-to-back draws, including a 1-1 tie with Indonesia on Wednesday behind the last-gasp equalizer from captain Steffi Sarge Kaur.
Hot-starting Philippines has shown its depth in the early skirmishes, with coach Alen Stacjic retaining only four starters from the Australia outing in the succeeding duel with Singapore and sending in subs without losing quality.
“It just shows the discipline within the team, the unity, the alignment that we have in the group. Everyone is focused on the same goal regardless of who comes on, regardless of which position they play — everyone knows their role so that’s another pleasing aspect of the game,” said Mr. Stajcic.
This, he stressed, is vital in a campaign where the side plays five games in nine days. After Malaysia, the home squad faces Indonesia on Sunday and Thailand on Tuesday to wrap up group play.
“We’ve got a big squad and it’s important everyone in the squad contributes to this tournament if we’re gonna come out on top,” said the Australian mentor.
“I’m pleased that we could rotate a lot of new players into the team and we’re going to continue that throughout the week and ensure that everyone gets an opportunity to put their hand up for a spot in the team long-term.” — Olmin Leyba