MANILA, Philippines -- With an overhauled squad featuring youthful players, the Philippine national women squad is positive about its chances in the ASEAN women’s football tournament in Vientiane, Laos.
National coach Ernie Nierras believes the team, also known as the Malditas, can improve from their 6th place finish last year in the upcoming ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Football Championship, which runs from October 16 to 25.
“If all things go according to plan, we aim to be there on October 25,” said Nierras, referring to the date of the championship, on Tuesday’s PSA forum at the Shakey’s UN Avenue branch in Manila.
Nierras was joined in the session backed by Shakey’s, Smart, PAGCOR and Outlast Battery by Fil-Am Heather Cooke, Fil-German Kristina Kuter, Belai Fernando and Sam Nierras, the daughter of the national coach.
The elder Nierras said the Malditas is bracketed in Group B with top seed Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia.
Group A is consisted of Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and Laos.
The Filipina booters will open their campaign on October 17 against Myanmar.
“We finished sixth out of eight teams the last time we competed in this tournament in 2009, but with the players we have now, I’m optimistic we can do better this time around,” the coach said.
The 5’8” Cooke, who has been getting raves from the coaching for her play, said she was delighted to make her national team debut with the Malditas.
“It’s a great privilege for me to play for the country of my mom,” said Cooke, whose mother hails from Iloilo. “I hope that I can contribute to this team.”
The 22-year-old defender played for Loyola Maryland in the NCAA Division 1.
The bespectacled Kuter, meanwhile, immediately impressed Nierras with her playing ability.
Kuter’s mother is a native of Kabangkalan, Negros Occidental, saw practice for the first time with the Malditas early Tuesday morning.
“All I heard was ‘boom, boom, boom’ in practice before we got here,” said Nierras of the 22-year-old midfielder’s powerful shots during the workout of the bespectacled Fortuna Cologne stalwart.
The 22-year-old Nierras, a mainstay of the Ateneo women’s varsity squad, said the recent additions made her also hopeful on their chances in the AFF competition.
The nationals are scheduled to fly for Laos on October 13, a day before the team managers’ meeting in the 8-nation tournament, the elder Nierras said.