Football: Pinays 'outstanding' despite loss to Australia, says coach

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 25 2022 01:01 PM

The Philippine women's national football team stood toe-to-toe against powerhouse Australia for 50 minutes before allowing four second half goals. Photo courtesy of the AFC.
The Philippine women's national football team stood toe-to-toe against powerhouse Australia for 50 minutes before allowing four second half goals. Photo courtesy of the AFC.

The Filipinas can hold their heads high even after absorbing a 4-0 defeat at the hands of powerhouse Australia in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 in India.

This was the sentiment of head coach Alen Stajcic, who expressed his pride at the effort shown by the Philippine women's national football team against the Aussies, who are ranked 11th in the world and favored to win the tournament.

"An outstanding performance," was how Stajcic described the Filipinas' effort against the Matildas on Monday night at the Mumbai Football Arena. 

Australia was massively favored against a Philippine squad ranked just 64th by FIFA, especially after their 18-0 demolition of Indonesia in their first Group B match last Friday.

But the Filipinas held their own in the first half, holding Australia scoreless and frustrating their star striker in Sam Kerr. It would take 50 minutes before the Matildas finally broke through, off a Kerr header from a Steph Catley corner.

"I couldn't be any prouder of the way that they fought and battled, and the effort was outstanding, against a really, truly world-class team," said Stajcic, who was very familiar with the Matildas, having coached them from 2014 to 2019.

"For our players to step up to that level and be able to hold them for 50 minutes, and really only concede off a corner and to Sam Kerr -- who is probably the best hitter of the ball in the last 10 or 15 years in women's football -- it just shows the resilience that the team showed, the fight, the effort," he added.

"It makes us really proud that we could match that team for so long, and keep them at bay."

An own goal by Dominique Randle made it 2-0 to Australia in the 53rd, and Emily van Egmond (67') and Mary Fowler (87') were also on target in the second half.

But there was no denying that the Filipinas gave the Australians all they could handle in the first half, with Randle and veteran defender Hali Long standing firm at the backline. Kiara Fontanilla, making her debut for the Philippines, comfortably dealt with the 10 shots that the Matildas sent toward her in the first half.

Kerr's header in the 51st minute changed the complexion of the match, but Stajcic was delighted to see his players hold on for that long against one of the best teams in the world.

"I think we proved that we can be a hard team to beat, a tough team. So much effort, a resilient team. Really showed a lot of good qualities that can push us to the next level," he noted.

The Philippines now has a 1-1 record in Group B, with three points coming from their win against Thailand last Friday. Despite the loss to the Aussies, they are still on track to qualify for the knockout stages and will face Indonesia on Thursday night.

For Stajcic, what makes their performances against Thailand and Australia all the more impressive is that the Filipinas have dealt with some COVID-19 issues. They were without striker Sarina Bolden against Thailand, and while she returned against Australia, they missed veteran 'keeper Inna Palacios and forward Quinley Quezada due to protocols.

"We've had COVID over the last three or four days now, five days in our group. And having to manage that back at the hotel, combined with trying to play a football tournament, and to come out and perform like that against Australia just shows how much fire and spirit there is in this team," Stajcic said.

"Which I think, the whole country of the Philippines should really be proud of," he added.

Australia's triumph gave them six points in two matches and assured their progress to the knockout round. A draw or a tie against Thailand on Thursday will confirm them as group winners, and the Philippines can join them in the quarterfinals with a win against Indonesia.

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