MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine women's football team Malditas left for Vietnam last night, hoping to follow the lead of their male counterparts, the Azkals, and make their own mark in the ASEAN Football Federation Women’s Championship set Sept. 12-22 in Ho Chi Minh City.
The Malditas will parade probably the country’s strongest ever squad with the likes of Fil-Ams Heather Cooke, Ashley O’Connor, Abby Komarc, Angeline and Patrice Impelido, Fil-Australian Nenita Burgess and Fil-Canadian Mallory Dayot as reinforcements.
"The team that I have now, this is the strongest I've ever seen in the women's national team," Malditas coach Ernie Nierras said in a report on the ASEAN Football Federation website.
Team captain Marielle Benitez, Sam Nierras, Inna Kristianne Beza Palacios, Louella Leah Amamio, Isabella Fernando, Jowee-Ann Barruga, Etang Ladero, Natasha Alquiros, Kathleen Rodriguez, Cristina delos Reyes, Vanessa and Aisa Mondero, and Marice Magdolot complete the Phl roster.
The target is a lofty one for the side that failed to get past the group stage in the 2011 edition in Laos. Last time, the Malditas placed third in Group B with only a point in the elims (0-1-2), their best result a 2-2 draw with Malaysia.
"We want to make it to the finals. If we don't make it to the finals, we will be disappointed," Nierras said.
He expressed belief the Malditas are well equipped for a possible shot at the finals.
"We'e been training for eight months. Unlike last year, we are able to address all the needs this time. This is the only time that we played 30 games to prepare," he said.
The Malditas will begin their campaign in Group A against 2011 runner-up Myanmar on Thursday at the Thong Nhat Stadium. A day later the Pinay booters will tackle host Vietnam at the same venue and will cap their elims campaign against Singapore on Monday.
The top two teams at the end of the group stage will move on the crossover semis on Sept. 20 against the two qualifiers from Group B.
Defending champion Thailand topbills Group B along with Laos and Malaysia.