Coach Alen Stajcic seemed to feel both relief and anxiety after the Philippines completed what he described as a schedule like no other.
“This is probably the most brutal international tournament for women,” said Stajcic after Filipinas played five group stage matches in nine days of the ASEAN Football Confederation Women’s Football Championship.
The difficulty of dealing with such a situation did not hinder Stajcic’s side as they were able to secure a place in the semi-finals after kicking off the regional championship with four consecutive wins before beating the last game. together in Group A on Tuesday.
A defensive mistake in the 75th minute helped Thailand take the top of the table with a 1-0 victory, a disappointing result in the context of nearly 3,000 spectators at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
The ball is misjudged
Kanyanat Chetthabutr’s goal was made after defenders Dom Randle, Sofia Harrison and goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel incorrectly predicted a high bounce.
The untimely defeat sent Filipinas into the semi-finals against defending champions Vietnam or Myanmar, who at press time were vying for the top spot of Group B.
“I don’t think we have a good advantage against Vietnam or Myanmar,” Stajcic said. “They played one game less than us and you know, there are easier groups and fewer games.”
Vietnam and Myanmar easily won tickets to the semi-finals after they each defeated Laos, Cambodia and Timor-Leste. They also have easier assignments, as opposed to Group A, which has Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia along with the Philippines and Thailand.
“So Vietnam and Myanmar are definitely the two most favorite candidates going to the semi-finals,” Stajcic added.
Vietnam is prioritized at the top of the table, thanks to its recent success in winning the last three editions of the Southeast Asian Games and topping the 2019 edition of the competition.
Recharge the battery
And the loss to Thailand almost put the Philippines in the path of regional powers.
The semi-finals are set for Friday, with the Filipinas hoping for plenty of time to recharge their batteries – something the Filipinas really need.
“One less game in these conditions is a big, big advantage,” Stajcic said.
Stajcic and his staff have changed after change since the start of the tournament, with the aim of both giving every player a chance to shine and giving the key players as much rest as possible.
Filipinas started the game against Thailand almost fit, with Sarina Bolden, who started with three goals in a 4-1 win over Indonesia, being substituted.
Bolden appeared in the 80th minute, to the cheers of the crowd. The country’s top goalscorer in this tournament, who Stajcic calls a talisman, is likely to start around this time, with a chance at the final.
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