Football: Pinays 'made it very difficult' for Matildas, says Australia coach

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2022 03:50 PM

Australia's Kyra Cooney-Cross tests the Philippines' defense in their AFC Women's Asian Cup match. Photo courtesy of the AFC.
Australia's Kyra Cooney-Cross tests the Philippines' defense in their AFC Women's Asian Cup match. Photo courtesy of the AFC.

Australia coach Tony Gustavsson said the Philippine women's team is one to "watch out" for after the Matildas endured a frustrating half in their Group B match Monday.

Australia netted four goals in the second half to advance to the knockout phase of the AFC Women's Asian Cup, but not before being held scoreless for over 50 minutes by a resolute Philippine side.

"We knew this was gonna be a very different game from the opening game, and I have to give a lot of credit to the Philippines," said Gustavsson. "I think they made it very difficult for us."

The Matildas were coming off a sensational 18-0 rout of Indonesia in their first game of the group phase on Friday, where they found the back of the net nine times in each half. Skipper Sam Kerr grabbed five goals in the rout to become her country's all-time leading goal-scorer.

The Filipinas proved to be a sterner test for the 11th ranked Aussies, and it wasn't until Kerr headed down a Steph Catley header in the 51st minute that they finally got on the board.

A Dominique Randle own goal, plus goals from Emily van Egmond (67') and Mary Fowler completed Australia's 4-0 win. 

Gustavsson insisted that he was unsurprised by the Filipinas' performance, having watched them pull off a 1-0 upset of Thailand last Friday.

"I saw them against Thailand, and I think they impressed me already then," the coach said of the Philippines side that is ranked 64th by FIFA. "We showed some video to the players to make sure the players also understood who we're gonna face."

"They're really well-organized, you can see that they spent a lot of time together. They probably have a very long prep time compared to some other teams in this tournament," he added. "They're organized almost like a club team, very synchronized, which I'm impressed with."

Australia coach Tony Gustavsson. Photo courtesy of the AFC.
Australia coach Tony Gustavsson. Photo courtesy of the AFC.

But what grabbed Gustavsson's attention was the fighting spirit displayed by the Filipinas, who showed no signs of being caught up in the moment against one of the top teams in women's football.

"Their fighting spirit -- they didn't shy away from a tackle, and they made it a tough game for us. So I'm really impressed," he noted.

This marked just the second time that Australia and the Philippines have played against each other, according to the AFC. The Matildas took a 7-0 triumph in 2008.

Since then, the Philippines have made steady strides; this is their second consecutive appearance in the Women's Asian Cup and are hoping to secure one of the five World Cup berths at stake in the tournament. 

Steering the Philippines in their World Cup quest is Alen Stajcic, who called the shots for the Matildas from 2014 to 2019 and led them to the FIFA World Cup 2015 as well as the Rio Olympics in 2016.

While Gustavsson did not comment on the Philippines' hiring of Stajcic, he did express his belief that the program is headed in the right direction.

"I don't know too much about the program historically. What I see though on the park now is a team that is very well-organized, I see a team that play for their country with pride," he said. 

"They're committed to play physical and work hard for each other, and I think that's a really, really good thing for a team," he added. "So like I said, I'm really impressed at where they are, and I think some teams need to watch out for them in this tournament."

Australia has already qualified for the knockout phase of the Asian Cup, and the Philippines can join them if they defeat Indonesia in their last Group B match on Thursday night. 

A draw against Indonesia will also suffice, provided that Australia defeats or draws against Thailand in their own match.

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