MANILA, Philippines -- The leadership of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) expects the women's national team to contend for a gold medal in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia this May.
The Filipinas already made history last year when they won bronze in Hanoi, in what was one of the highlights of an eventful 2022 that also saw the team qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup.
The SEA Games will be part of the team's build-up for the showpiece tournament in New Zealand/Australia, and PFF Secretary-General Atty. Ed Gastanes is backing the Filipinas to put on another strong performance.
"It's a very real chance right now for our women's team," Gastanes said during the Philippine Sportswriters' Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday, when asked of the Filipinas' chances to win gold in Cambodia.
"Our women's team, after achieving that victory in the AFF Women's Championship, they are really looking forward to bagging a medal, if not the gold, in the SEA Games," he added.
The Filipinas had built on their success in the 31st SEA Games by lifting their first ever trophy, the AFF Women's Championship, on home soil in July 2022. From there, they embarked on a series of training camps and international friendlies, capped by a pair of victories over Papua New Guinea in December.
Gastanes expects Vietnam to be the Filipinas' toughest challengers in the SEA Games. The reigning gold medalists are also preparing for their own maiden appearance in the FIFA Women's World Cup and will surely want to use the regional tournament as a springboard.
"There are two countries that are really preparing for the SEA Games -- one Vietnam and two, the Philippines," said Gastanes, noting that another regional powerhouse in Thailand is still preparing for the upcoming inter-confederation play-offs for the World Cup in February.
"They are capable," he said of the Filipinas. "The coaching staff has been honing their skills. It's non-stop training. Even last December, they were training in Sydney, Australia."
The SEA Games will be just one stop in the Filipinas' road to the Women's World Cup.
In February, they will compete in the Pinatar Cup 2023 in Murcia, Spain, where they will play Wales on February 15, Scotland on February 18, and Iceland on February 21.
They will have a training camp in March, before playing in the first round of the Olympic women's football qualifiers on April 3 to 11. The Filipinas are grouped with Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Hong Kong.
The SEA Games are scheduled for May 5 to 17 in Cambodia, and the FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off on July 20.