Malditas falter in AFC Asian Cup


Head coach Rabah Benlarbi is looking forward to the retooling of the Philippine women’s national football team after the Malditas squandered its last chance to qualify for the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) Women’s World Cup 2019.

The world-ranked No. 71 Philippines lost to No. 16 South Korea, 0-5, in the fifth place playoff match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup 2018 early Tuesday at the Amman International Stadium in Jordan.

“The difference between the teams was not just about ranking but also the technical ability both sides have,” said the French tactician. “We must now work very hard going forward in order to raise ourselves up to the level of a side such as Korea Republic.”

Sixteen-year old goalkeeper Kearra Bastes-Jones held her ground in the first 34 minutes of the winner-take-all match but the Malditas eventually crumbled under the onslaught of World Cup veterans Taeguk Nangja.

South Korea’s Cho So-hyun (left) and Malditas’ Tahnai Annis vie for the ball during the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup 2018 fifth-place playoff at the Amman International Stadium in Jordan. PHOTO FROM AFC.COM

“I think at the beginning of the game, we disturbed Korea Republic a little as we had changed the system we were using. But if you make mistakes against such good teams, it is always going to be hard for you,” said Benlarbi.

Still, the Philippines’ sixth place finish was the best so far in its nine appearances in the top tier continental tourney. It was also the first time that the national squad–which ended a 15-year drought in the Women’s Asian Cup–came closest to clinching a World Cup berth.

South Korea, meanwhile, booked its second straight and third overall ticket to the world’s most prestigious women’s football competition.

“Our players did a great job and an excellent performance, which helped us qualify for the World Cup,” said South Korea coach Yoon Duk-yeo, who also steered the team to a World Cup qualification in 2015.

“Personally, it is a great honor to have the chance to go to a second World Cup and I would like to thank all my players as they have helped us achieve this,” added Yoon. “This is not the end. There is now the World Cup. We have found some things we need to improve and from now on, we will try to prepare well for next year in France.”

Four minutes past the half hour mark, Jang Sel-gi fired a curler from the edge of the penalty box to break down the defense of Bastes-Jones, who had to produce gutsy saves early on against the relentless attack of the East Asian powerhouse.

Lee Min-A doubled the lead in first half stoppage time. The South Koreans were bound to have a stronger second half showing after they launched 14 shots (five on-target shots) and dominated the possession (78 percent-22 percent) in the first half.

The former Asian Cup bronze finisher indeed came out with guns blazing in the closing 45 minutes as it buried three more goals, with Lim Seon-joo chipping in one and Cho So-hyun striking a brace.

Even conceding a consolation goal was denied by South Korea en route to shattering the Philippines’ dream of entering the world stage.


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