Former women’s national football team coach Ernest Nierras believes that the current crop of Malditas has a great chance of qualifying for the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) Women’s World Cup in 2019.
Nierras, who now acts as the technical director and assistant coach of the national squad, is optimistic that the Pinay team can make it to the top five teams in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Women’s Cup 2018 that will guarantee them a berth in the highest women’s football competition in the world.
“We are currently training the best pool of players for the women’s national team. It is being headed by the most qualified coach and coaching staff. We are supporting it with the best management team we can put together. I can confidently say that we have a very good chance of qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France,” Nierras told The Manila Times.
The veteran football tactician said the team is eyeing to win two games (six points) in the group stage for an assured top four finish in the eight-team tourney, which is to be held from April 6 to 20.
A win and draw, Nierras explained, may prove to be problematic for the Philippines as the result will possibly pit the squad against one of the “Group of Death” teams —Australia, Japan, South Korea or Vietnam—in a battle for the last ticket to France.
The Stallion Laguna FC mentor said the massive significance of the top continental tilt prompted the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) to assemble the best local and overseas-based female booters in the training pool.
“The quality of the players we have in training right now is the highest I’ve ever seen. From the strength to the speed on and off the ball, to the physical nature of how they play as well as their technical skills. This will be the strongest team of Malditas to date—highly educated, experienced, beautiful, feisty, athletic, and exuding confidence on and off the pitch. Isn’t it the definition of a ‘Maldita’ anyway?” he said.
Consisting the management team are local football personalities Vince Santos (project director), Carlo Rodriguez (marketing manager) Filbert Alquiros (finance manager), Jefferson Cheng (team manager), Samantha Nierras (US liaison), Mark Mangune (US liaison and recruitment officer) and Mia Montayre (media officer).
The coaching staff, meanwhile, is composed of head coach Richard Boon, assistant coach Clint McDaniel, goalkeeping coach Eric Miselroy, staff coaches Joey Hoffman and Carey Rosenberry, and fitness coach Eliseo Cabilo together with his Winner Circle Athletics staff. PFF technical director Marlon Maro is tasked to inspect the progress of the team.
The preparation of the Malditas is under the special program named Project Jordan spearheaded by PFF president Mariano Araneta.
“From a technical perspective, we’ve never had a highly qualified coaching staff handle the Malditas. We are going all out. The members of Project Jordan have volunteered their time and expertise in football—management, marketing and fund raising. The heart and passion are there. Our spirits are high and very willing. It’s about time we shock the world,” added Nierras.
Last December 10, the Malditas were drawn into the “Group of Life” with host Jordan, Thailand and China.
“We were praying for a good draw to give us a realistic chance to qualify and we got what we prayed for. Now the hard work begins, because we may never get another chance like this again.”
The national team has already begun its four-month training camp for the continental tournament last Wednesday in Corona, California, USA. According to Nierras, the squad will go through four to five mini-camps for the duration of the preparations.
The PFF allotted P15 million (around $350,000) for the national team’s participation in Asian Women’s Cup. This is way lower compared to the respective budgets of the other seven participating nations, which is estimated at $3 million.
With the limited resources, Nierras and the Malditas are calling for a support in their bid to achieve a milestone in Philippine football.
“This is the best chance that we will ever get to make it to the Women’s World Cup. That is the mindset of the team. The goal is to qualify,” he said.
“What we need is the undying support of our countrymen and the business community. We have taken this program as far as we can with the resources that are currently available to us. The potential is exponential. We want to shock the world, but we need your support to do it.”