The Philippine women’s national football team opens its campaign in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup 2018 against host Jordan early Saturday at the Amman International Stadium.
Game begins at 1 a.m. (Manila time).
The Malditas will slug it out with eight other teams in the Women’s Asian Cup, wherein five berths to the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 are up for grabs. The national squad needs to post two wins to secure a spot.
Head coach Rabah Benlarbi whose wards were given the “underdog” tag, vowed to give their all.
“We will do our best in this tournament. Nobody is thinking about us. We must be motivated and concentrated. These are the keys for us. We hope we will qualify for the World Cup,” said Benlarbi.
The Philippines (ranked No. 72 in the world) was drawn into the “Group of Life” with Jordan (No. 51), Thailand (No. 30) and China (No. 17). The Malditas managed to avoid the Group B squads of Australia (No. 6), Japan (No. 11), South Korea (No. 16) and Vietnam (No. 35).
Following their match against Jordan, the Filipina booters will take on China on April 9 before closing the elimination round against Thailand on April 13.
Benlarbi, along with assistant coaches Steven Joseph Hoffman and Joyce Landagan, have enlisted 23 players for the tourney.
Veteran standouts Patrice Impelido, Inna Palacios, Sara Castañeda, Alesa Dolino, Claire Lim and Hali Long will lead the lineup composed of locally and overseas-based lady footballers.
Completing the team are Camille Rodriguez, Calah Simarago, Jesse Anne Shugg, Quinley Quezada, Maria Luisa Park, Jessican Miclat, Leah Larot, Caitlin Kreutz, Kearra Bastes-Jones, Krsytal De Ramos, Stacy Cavill, Kristen Bugay, Morgan Brown, Sarina Bolden, Chalise Baysa and Tahnai Annis.
“These girls made some huge sacrifices just to be here, whether it be their college or their jobs,” said Hoffman, who also emphasized the significance of the top continental women’s competition ahead.
“This could be a huge change in women’s soccer for the Philippines and this is what the team’s goal—to make it better for the future. Younger players can come to the World Cup consecutively. This is for the bigger picture and the future of the country.”
The team conducted a number of training camps in California, USA and Manila before holding its final camp in Japan where the Malditas played with teams from Nadeshiko League 2.