MANILA, Philippines -- The upcoming Pinatar Cup 2023 will be a perfect stage for the Philippine women's national football team to officially kick start their road to the FIFA Women's World Cup in July.
The Filipinas will be up against Iceland, Scotland, and Wales in the tournament that takes place in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain, from February 15-21. For Philippines head coach Alen Stajcic, the competition is "a little bit of a warm-up" for what should be a very busy year for the squad.
"A lot of the tournaments in women's football around that February window -- they're all called tournaments, but really they're not designed for winning trophies and being the champions of Pinatar," explained Stajcic.
"They really are preparation tournaments for the bigger tournaments that lay ahead," he added.
Of course, the Filipinas will still want to win, though they face tall odds as the lowest-ranked team in the tournament. The Philippines is No. 53 in the latest FIFA rankings, while Iceland is 16th, Scotland is 25th, and Wales is 32nd.
Stajcic says that even as they target victories in the Pinatar Cup, they must keep the big picture in mind.
"The big picture is preparing the team for the major tournaments that lay ahead for the rest of the year, particularly the World Cup in my view," he said. "So, you know, it's an important tournament."
"We're playing excellent opposition," he stressed.
The three European teams in the Pinatur Cup did not qualify for the FIFA Women's World Cup, but they have similar qualities to the teams that the Filipinas will play in the group phase, according to Stajcic.
"We're playing teams with similar rankings and obviously similar playing styles. We're playing against European nations in Scotland, Wales and Iceland who are probably the best teams in the world not going to the World Cup," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to that challenge. And when you think about our group, in terms of Norway and Switzerland, and New Zealand, it's a very, very similar playing style. So we've targeted that tournament really well," he added.
The Filipinas are grouped with co-hosts New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland in the World Cup.
They start their campaign in the Pinatar Cup on February 15 against Wales, followed by Scotland on February 18 and Iceland on February 21. The tournament will be follow a round-robin format, with the team with most points emerging as champions.