Football: Stajcic pleased with Filipinas' improvement after 2 friendlies

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2022 05:28 PM

The Philippine women's national football team celebrates after scoring against Fiji in a FIFA international friendly. Photo courtesy of Skip Tan.
The Philippine women's national football team celebrates after scoring against Fiji in a FIFA international friendly. Photo courtesy of Skip Tan.

The Philippine women's national football team is making steady progress in Australia, where they are training for their campaign in the 31st Southeast Asian Games.

The Filipinas triumphed in two friendlies against Fiji earlier this month at the Wanderers Football Park in New South Wales, in what marked their first taste of action since the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 in February.

"The team showed some improvement [compared to the first match]," head coach Alen Stajcic said after the Filipinas routed 67th-ranked Fiji, 8-0, last April 11.

On April 8, they had allowed two second half goals in a 7-2 triumph against the same team.

"There's plenty of work ahead in getting to the level that we want to be, but we are getting better, playing with much more fluency with and without the ball and gaining some confidence," Stajcic said.

Katrina Guillou impressed against Fiji, netting a hat-trick in the second match, while Carleigh Frilles marked her 20th birthday by grabbing a brace.

In their first match, they scored six goals in the first half and three players -- Quinley Quezada, Anicka Castañeda and Tahnai Annis -- finished with two goals each. Quezada also found the back of the net in the second match, as the Japan-based striker is in fine goal-scoring form for the Filipinas.

Despite giving up two second half goals, the Filipinas' performance in their first match against Fiji was acceptable to their head coach.

"It's a good starting point for us," he said. "We were a bit rusty on the ball as the match wore on. That's just a result of a couple of months out and just four to five days of training."

"But we'll be working hard to ensure we get back to the levels where we were during the Asian Cup," he added.

Stajcic handed first caps to Kaya Hawkinson and Chantelle Maniti, while giving plenty of minutes to youngsters such as Frilles, Isabella Flanigan, Malea Cesar, and Anicka Castañeda.

"It's nice to see some young players doing well, getting some valuable minutes and improving the competition for places within the squad," the coach said.

"The future is looking good for this team, but we know we have to continue working hard."

The Filipinas, now ranked 54th in the world by FIFA, expect to play at least two more friendlies before leaving for Vietnam for the SEA Games set for May 12-23.