MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine women’s football team Malditas hope to emerge from their numbing setback in the recent Southeast Asian Games better and wiser as they pick up the pieces and gun for redemption this year in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship.
The Malditas suffered crunching losses to host Myanmar (0-2) and powerhouse Vietnam (0-7) in the group stages of the SEAG, missing a podium finish that they had targeted all along and pitched for during the Philippine Olympic Committee’s selection process for the Phl delegation.
“We will learn from our losses,” Malditas coach Ernie Nierras said on New Year’s Day in the team’s Facebook page.
Despite the botched job in the Myanmar SEAG, Nierras branded 2013 as a good one for his wards.
“2013 was the best year for the Malditas. 2014 will even be better!” he declared.
The Malditas did gain inroads in the previous year. They hit an all-time in the Fifa world rankings at 75th last August, maintaining the position by the year-end ranking released last Dec. 13.
Competing in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Women’s Cup qualifiers in Bangladesh last May, the Pinay booters upset world No. 52 Iran, 6-0, then lost a close 0-1 decision to Thailand and capped their campaign with a 4-0 win over host Bangladesh. They finished second in the group and fell short of advancing to the next phase.
Four months later, the Malditas vied in the AFF Women’s Championship in Myanmar, where they split their four assignments in their group. They beat Indonesia, 6-0, and Laos, 7-2, but lost to eventual champion Japan Under-23, 1-4, and Myanmar, 1-5, to miss a semis berth. Fil-Am Joana Houplin emerged as the tourney’s top scorer with eight goals, though.
Their solid showing in the two tournaments convinced the POC’s SEAG task force to give the Malditas the greenlight to the Myanmar meet. They carried the fight for Phl football after the Azkals U-23 failed to get the POC nod.
The Burmese and the Vietnamese, however, spoiled Phl XI’s bid in the biennial meet and showed Filipinas still have much catching-up to do in international play.
“Yes, we did not even come close to our goal in the SEAG, but our growth in 2013 is still better than any previous year,” said Nierras, who took responsibility for the losses. “I will learn from this and make the team better.”
The 2014 AFF Women’s Championship will be held in August in Thailand.