There will be no complacency for the Philippine women's national football team even after they were drawn into a relatively favorable group in the qualifiers of the AFC Women's Asian Cup.
This was the assurance made by coach Marlon Maro, whose team is now in Tashkent, Uzbekistan ahead of their qualifying matches against Nepal and Hong Kong in Group F.
The Philippines, ranked 68th in the world by FIFA, will play 101st ranked Nepal on Saturday, September 18, and 78th ranked Hong Kong on September 24. Only the winner of the group will earn a slot to the Asian Cup next year which will take place in India.
"Definitely, we will not play complacent," Maro told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday. "What's important is we're No. 1 here in Tashkent."
Maro acknowledged that their group is "favorable," and the coach made it clear that the Filipinas will do all they can to maximize the opportunity presented to them.
Maro, who was installed as coach of the women's team in July, has reason to be confident of their chances as the team spent the past month training in California, where they got to play five friendlies against local clubs.
"The team that prepares well will (become) victorious, and that is us," he said. "I don't see the other teams were able to prepare more than what the Philippines was doing in California."
"We just watched the Nepal-Bangladesh game last September 9 and 12 live, and I think that was only their friendlies during the pandemic," he revealed. "So I think we are two months ahead of them in preparation, and I think that is a plus factor for the Philippine team."
Goalkeeper Inna Palacios, who will skipper the team in Tashkent, shares her coach's optimism especially after their productive camp in California where they got to learn the style that Maro wants them to play.
"We've evolved with the sport as well. It's not just like a plain kick and run. It's really about holding the ball and then making plays available for everyone," said Palacios.
"I would say it's a dynamic kind of football," she added of their style. "We're evolving into what football is right now, so it's a much faster game, more intelligent game. With the tactics that we have, we're confident that we'll follow the game plan."
The Filipinas are seeking a second straight appearance in the AFC Women's Asian Cup. They also qualified for the 2018 edition of the event in 2018, losing to South Korea in the fifth place match.