Newcomers uncovered by Stajcic continue to repay the faith

-

Whether it be Katrina Guillou, Dominique Randle or Kiara Fontanilla, Alen Stajcic’s debutants have been lighting up the AFC Asian Cup in India so far.

It seems strange now, but without the Australian coach, a three month camp and a clean slate these women likely wouldn’t have been on the plane to the tournament, let alone starting.

When Stajcic was given the head coaches role for the Philippines side in October 2021, he was determined to find the best eligible 23 players to represent the Filipinas in India.

To do this and to get a better understanding of the squad, the Australian coach opted to host a three month camp in Orange County, Los Angeles.

Here he would get to see the players he was working with first hand, in an environment rarely afforded in international football.

Embed from Getty Images

Over 100 players from around the world would show up with Stajcic left to cut this group to just the best 23 who he felt could get them an illusive first World Cup qualification.

Speaking after their historic win against Thailand on Friday evening, Stajcic was clear on the importance that he placed on the players earning their spot in the squad at this camp.

“I came in brand new, I didn’t know anything about the players. So it was a clean slate, everyone started at the same point. It didn’t matter what their experience was, whether they were debutants or had played for five years,” he said.

“Over the 10 weeks they played for their spot. I think we are seeing a team that is really revelling in the preparation they had and the competition amongst the squad. It’s good to have competition for places.”

Embed from Getty Images

Some of those newcomers who were able to make their first squad include French Filipino Guillou, defender Randle, and goalkeeper Fontanilla.

For Stajcic whilst having youth in the squad is important, as seen by the youth team members including Carleigh Frilles and Morgan Brown, he was quick to remind everyone the context around the above debutants.

“I always had high hopes for them,” he said.

“They aren’t kids coming into the national team, they are in their mid 20’s.”

Those high hopes were certainly justified if the first two matches are anything to go by, as the nation recorded arguably two of their biggest results in history.

Embed from Getty Images

In their historic win against Thailand, it was Guillou, Randle, and McDaniel who were all stand-outs on debut.

The French filipino attacker was able to score in the first twenty minutes, only for it to be ruled out as offside. She would follow this up with a long range effort that was only denied by the crossbar, as she was a menace to the Thai defence all match.

Defender Randle and goalkeeper McDaniel were also brilliant, keeping a much fancied Thai team to just four attempts on target and zero goals.

Despite making squads in the past, it was McDaniel’s first start for the Filipinas. This trend of debuting goalkeepers would continue into the Matildas match.

Against Australia it was young goalkeeper Kiara Fontanilla’s turn to make her debut, performing exceptionally well despite losing 4-0.

She was remarkably able to keep the star studded Matildas out until the 51st minute, a time by which the Australians had already put 10 past the Indonesian’s in their previous group match.

Embed from Getty Images

Whilst she made some good saves off Sam Kerr, it was her world class effort against Manchester City defender Alanna Kennedy at the near post that gained the goalkeeper the most plaudits.

Fontanilla was able to stretch her legs towards a brilliant downwards header destined for the back of the net, getting her foot to it to stop the Australian defender from getting on the score sheet.

Despite the 4-0 loss, Stajcic was extremely impressed by both the debutants and experienced players, remarking how incredible their achievements on the pitch were after such a short time together.

“For us, we spent three months in camp and for us to bridge that gap so quickly is really a phenomenal thing from these players. I think that the country should be very proud of what they have produced,” he said

It’s clear for all to see that these players who have been given their first place in a Philippines squad have certainly repaid the faith so far.

Embed from Getty Images

Whilst she didn’t score the winner, it was the sustained pressure of Guillou that ultimately led the Filipinas to score the match winning goal against their rivals.

A stand out performance from Randle in defence led to a clean sheet, something which was pivotal in their first ever win over Thailand.

The same can be said for Randle and Fontanilla against the Australian’s, who’s defensive performances helped the Filipinas achieve a respectable score of 4-0 against the Olympic semi-finalists.

Without Stajcic and his training camp, who knows if these women would be playing in India, or even be in the squad.

For Philippines fans around the world they would be happy that they are, as they are helping to lay the foundation for a potentially historic and remarkable Asian Cup tournament.

Feature Image Credit: Philippines Women’s national team

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required