MANILA, Philippines -- The hard work has just begun for the Philippine women's national football team (PWNFT) after their unforgettable campaign in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022.
This, according to team captain Hali Long, who is already anticipating the challenges ahead of the squad on their road to the FIFA Women's World Cup next year.
"We'd definitely grown as a team, we'd definitely grown as individuals, which translates on the field," Long said on the "Post-Game" podcast. "It's really nice to see us take the next step forward for Philippine football."
"It's a step that we always knew we had to take, we always knew it was there, and we always had the opportunity to, but we've never actually done it," she added.
"So it's really nice that we could pull the trigger on this one."
The Filipinas took that big step forward for Philippine football in the Women's Asian Cup in India, where they advanced to the semifinals for the first time ever -- and in the process, secured a spot in the Women's World Cup next year.
A penalty shootout victory over Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals propelled the Filipinas to history. Their campaign ended with a 0-2 loss to South Korea in the semis, but it didn't take the gloss off what had been a wildly successful tournament for the Philippines.
"It's like we made it over the hump of what all of this," said Long, who plays center-back for the Philippines.
"But it's not any easier," she also warned.
Long was referring not just to their World Cup campaign, but also the events leading up to the showpiece tournament. The PWNFT will have a busy 2022, as they are set to compete in the Southeast Asian Games, the AFF Women's Championship, and the Asian Games.
And Long is aware that the Philippines will enter those tournaments with new targets on their backs.
"It's like, almost harder now, because we have so much more to prove," she said. "I've said this before, so many times, like, broken record. But, it's like, we have to prove ourselves."
"We have to beat Southeast Asian teams, we have to beat (them), because we're -- according to the Asian Cup, it's like we should be No. 1 in Southeast Asia," Long pointed out. "So we have to prove that."
"We have to go out there this year and prove that, time and time again. Until we've made this name for ourselves. More than just the headlines we've made now, we have made this solid foundation, that it wasn't just luck, and it wasn't like, our turn to go. But, we are here to stay."
The Philippines has yet to win a gold medal in the SEA Games but they will be confident heading into this year's competition in Hanoi, Vietnam, thanks in large part to a 1-0 win against Thailand in the group stages of the Women's Asian Cup.
For more of Long's thoughts on the PWNFT's Asian Cup campaign and their road to the FIFA Women's World Cup, check out the Post-Game podcast.