Shooting for a historic appearance in the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) Women’s World Cup, the Philippines is set to tackle fellow contender Thailand in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup 2018.
The Malditas battle the Chaba Kaew at 1 a.m. today (Philippine time) at the King Abdullah 2nd Stadium in Amman, Jordan.
The winner will earn an outright spot to the world’s highest women’s football tournament slated next year in France and a seat in the Women’s Asian Cup knockout stage.
A draw, however, will benefit Thailand as it leads the Philippines in goal difference. The two Asean squads are tied with three points.
“The game against Thailand is now a very important one for us,” said Philippine women’s national football team head coach Rabah Benlarbi.
After opening the continental competition with an upset win over host Jordan, the Philippines fell to No. 3 as it bowed to Group A leader China, 0-3, last Monday night.
Benlarbi has moved on from that loss and is now focused on preparing the Malditas for the all-important match.
“We will try to recover over the next two days and be fully prepared for the match,” said the French mentor.
Thailand, meanwhile, ascended to No. 2 following an emphatic 6-1 bounce-back win at the expense of Jordan. It lost to China, 0-4, in its opener.
Like Benlarbi, Thai tactician Nuengrutai Srathongvian wants his players to keep their sight on the crucial Southeast Asian showdown.
“We have another match coming up in a few days and we are already looking forward to the game against the Philippines,” said Srathongvian.
Benlarbi and the Malditas will don the underdog tag anew against the powerhouse Thailand.
The Thai booters boast of a gold and 15 appearances in the Asian Cup on top of five SEA Games titles. They also made their World Cup debut in 2015.
The Philippines will bank on its lone goal scorer Sarina Bolden while veteran defender Hali Long and skipper Tahnai Annis are out to smother Thailand’s prolific striker Suchawadee Nildhamrong, who scored a brace in their previous win.
With winless Jordan facing eight-time Asian champion and Word Cup-bound China in the other game, the loser in the tussle between the Asean teams will likely finish No. 3 in the group. The third placers in both Groups A and B will clash for the fifth and final ticket to France.