Philippines narrowly avoided Covid disaster before opener

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The Alen Stajcic era of the Philippines women’s national team has begun with a bang, as the team recorded their first victory against Thailand after 13 attempts.

In what was a tightly contested fixture between the two rivals, the Filipinas were able to secure the three points late, collecting a 1-0 victory on Friday night.

As promised earlier this week the Philippines came out hard from the first whistle, taking it to their hotly tipped opponents from the outset.

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They could have easily taken the lead within the first 20 minutes with a correctly-disallowed goal from debutant Katrina Guillou setting the tone.

For everyone watching, it looked as though an undisturbed build up in the months before the tournament had led to a fantastic performance, however after the match Stajcic shed some light on the complications his team faced just days ahead of the fixture.

A Covid outbreak left the team isolating only 24 hours before kick-off, with star attacker Sarina Bolden ultimately needing to withdraw from the match.

For Stajcic, whilst the preparations over the last 48 hours had not been ideal, the performance on Friday night was a great representation of who they are as a squad.

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“For us to put in that performance under those sorts of difficulties has shown just how far this team has come,” he said.

Throughout the second half it was the Philippines who looked the most likely to score of the two teams, especially on the counter attack. Despite a few missed opportunities it was ultimately Chandler McDaniel who scored the winner in the 81st minute.

Even though the goal came from an error from veteran Thai keeper Waraporn Boonsing, Stajcic wasn’t surprised that it was a McDaniel strike that ultimately won them the match.

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Having been at training camp with the squad for the last two months, the Australian was aware of the talent McDaniel has.

“Chandler has that long range goal in her locker. She is one of the best ball strikers that I have seen.”

Whilst their attack was highly impressive, the Philippines defence, especially in the second half, was the foundation of their victory.

Whether it was veteran Hali Long or goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel, Stajcic was incredibly pleased by their overall defensive performance.

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“I thought our defensive effort was exceptional. We limited a very good team to very few chances.”

Whilst Stajcic doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself in terms of what the victory could mean, he certainly understands the significance of the result and is ready to celebrate with the squad.

“Ultimately it is just one game, so we will enjoy it tonight, enjoy that victory. Beating second gives you a lot of confidence and most importantly three points on the board,” he said.

“It’s a special victory for the country, creating a bit of history is always special.”

The victory leaves the Philippines with a good chance of qualifying for the quarterfinals, which if they win will see them collect their maiden ticket to a FIFA Women’s World Cup.

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Off the back of their preparations and competition for spots, Stajcic has full belief that the sky is the limit for his squad.

“We want to make this team go to the next level, not just qualify for a world cup but we also want to be competitive when we get there,” he said.

The Philippines will now play Australia on Monday night, before coming up against Indonesia on Friday morning.

Feature Image Credit: Victor Fraile

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

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