Pinay booters need longer preparation for 2018 Asian Cup

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Her wards now to be pitted against world-class opponents, Philippine women’s football team head coach Leticia Bautista wants the PH XI to have a comprehensive training program leading to the 2018 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Women’s Asian Cup in Jordan.

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And she knows it won’t be easy for the Philippine team to grab one of the five slots at stake for the 2019 World Cup in France.

“For us to get into the top five of the final round, we really need to prepare really hard. If we only train for just three weeks, like we used to do, it would be hard for us to compete there,” said Bautista during the team’s thanksgiving dinner on Monday night.

“If you would ask me and if I will be the coach of the squad next year, I would want for the team to have friendlies not just locally but overseas as well,” she added.

The Filipina booters booked a slot in next year’s Asian Cup after finishing second to host Jordan in the qualifying tournament in Tajikistan.

They will be facing world-class competition in Jordan including defending champion Japan, which is ranked No. 6 in the International Football Federation (FIFA).

Also in the eight-nation tournament are Jordan, Australia, China, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. The top five in the April tournament will advance to the World Cup.

Meanwhile, Bautista was elated with their performance in Tajikistan after punching a ticket to the Asian Cup for the first time since 2003.

“The result of the tournament has not sunk in yet to the team. During my previous interviews, all I said was we were there to compete and qualify,” said Bautista.

“I can’t explain how happy the team is right now. Before as a player, I really wanted to qualify for the Asian Cup and now as a coach, it is a dream come true,” she added.

Bautista admitted the Philippines got the luck in the draw as it needed to finish at least second to qualify in the final round.

“Going to the tournament, I was positive that we would be able to be competitive against the other teams in our group. But we did not expect that we would have a result as good as this,” she said.

“Aside from the results of the games, the score line that we had was also impressive. This is the first time that the Philippines won on big margins like this.”

The Filipinas ended the qualifiers at the No. 2 spot with 10 points on a 3-1-1 (win-draw-loss) card just five points behind Jordan.

The Philippines beat United Arab Emirates (4-0), Iraq (4-0) and Tajikistan (8-0). The PH XI drew with Bahrain, 1-1, then lost to Jordan (1-5) in their final Group A match.

Bautista said the team displayed chemistry and teamwork on those three wins.

“During our first three games, we really learned the importance of teamwork. Their chemistry and hard work really paid off during the first three games,” she said.

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