The Philippine women’s football team expressed optimism of its upcoming campaign in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in Tajikistan starting on April 3.
Assistant coach Alfredo Estacion said the squad is ready to face the challenge and reach the goal of landing in the tournament proper.
“We’re 100 percent confident. We’ll motivate ourselves to make it to the final tournament,” said Estacion during the team’s sendoff ceremony on Thursday.
The Filipina booters are in Group A along with tournament host Tajikistan, final round host Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Estacion added that the team has a good chance of advancing to the next round, as they will face the lower-ranked opponents in the group.
“It’s based on the teams that we are competing with. Most of the teams (in our group) are countries where women’s football development is quite lagging. So, we are really banking on that. We have a good chance of qualifying,” he said.
The Philippines is ranked No. 68 in the International Football Federation (FIFA). Bahrain is at No. 73 while UAE is at No. 78. Tajikistan, Jordan, and Iran are unranked by FIFA due to inactivity of women’s football in their countries for the past 18 months.
Estacion said they just need to finish at the top two to qualify for the final tournament to be held in Jordan in April next year.
“It’s a big boost that we only need to end in the top two spots to qualify, especially in our group. Jordan is out of the race already because they automatically qualified as the host for the finals,” he said.
“All we have to do is to take out the competition, which is three teams. Most likely, the pretty good teams that we’ll face are Iraq and Tajiskistan because these teams have already developed their women’s football.”
The 18-woman roster that will be flying to Dushanbe on Friday are veterans Patrice Imperlido and Inna Palacios, Aira Augustin, Joanna Almeda, Hazel Arce, Zhyrelle Belluga, Anicka Castaneda, Sara Castaneda, Alisha Del Campo, Alesa Dolino, Cristine Duran, Claire Lim, Hali Long, Eva Madarang, Irish Navaja, Hanna Parado, Jovelle Sudaria and Patricia Tomanon.
Leticia Bautista will serve as the team’s head coach and Lalaine Sarmiento as team manager.
The Filipinas will begin their campaign against UAE at the Pamir Stadium on April 3.