MANILA, Philippines -- Even while they celebrated a first-ever international trophy, the Philippine women's national football team continued to keep an eye on the bigger picture.
The Filipinas wrote their names in the history books once more after a 3-0 demolition of Thailand in the final of the 2022 AFF Women's Championship, completing an unforgettable campaign.
They did it in front of a crowd of over 8,000 fans at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on Sunday night, with the home fans tirelessly cheering for 90 minutes as the Filipinas stamped their class as the best team in Southeast Asia.
"I think we've put our footprint in the ground before, but now, we're definitely standing. We're definitely two feet on the ground in Southeast Asia," said veteran defender Hali Long, who has played for the Philippines since 2016 and endured plenty of heartbreak with the team before experiencing this much-deserved run of success.
The Filipinas have been on a roll in 2022, securing their spot to next year's FIFA Women's World Cup last February then ending a decades-long medal drought when they won bronze in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in May.
Lifting a first major trophy on home soil was yet another highlight for the team, but they all stressed afterward that there is plenty of work to be done.
"I think we'll enjoy ourselves for the most part right now, and then in a few weeks, it's back to work," said skipper Tahnai Annis, whose precise deliveries on corner kicks were a massive weapon for the team.
"We can only keep building from this. We've set a standard now, we've set the bar, and we have to just keep raising it in preparations for next year," she added.
Goal-keeper Olivia McDaniel said the team's progression went "from zero to a hundred" as they have shown that they can compete not just at the Southeast Asian level but even at the continental one.
The Filipinas had drawn praise for their valiant effort against powerhouse Australia in the Asian Cup and outlasted Chinese-Taipei in penalties to clinch their World Cup berth.
"I think we really just climbed up that hill and bridged the gap between us between those top 20, top 30 teams. Just showing them that we can compete, and we can get there," said McDaniel.
"I think it's all just uphill from this. It's gonna be a tough climb until next July in Australia and New Zealand, but all we have to do is work. Work, work, work, and we'll get there, to compete with the big dogs," she added.
Philippines head coach Alen Stajcic will surely be pleased at the mentality of his players as he also underscored their need for constant improvement.
The Australian gaffer was all praises for his players after their historic feat, but he added that they cannot be satisfied just yet.
"For me, we've just climbed a hill, but there's mountains that lay ahead," he said. "Beating Japan, Korea and China, North Korea and Australia is such a more difficult task, so you know, I'm definitely not getting ahead of myself."
"I've seen how those countries are, playing against top teams in the world before. And I know there's still a gap for us to bridge to be able to compete against them, in Asian Cups but also in the Olympic Games and the World Cup next year so," he added.
"We're gonna celebrate tonight, no doubt, but I know the big picture we've got a lot of work to do."
It's work that the Filipinas are more than willing to put in as they look to build on the successes they have already achieved this year.
"This is just the start," vowed Annis. "We're gonna keep getting better, and we're gonna give everyone a show next year at the World Cup."