The end of a dry spell
The Philippine Women’s National Football Team also known as the “Malditas” has finally ended its dry spell. For the first time since the team was established in 1980, the nation’s top female booters have qualified to the next round of the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup to be held in Jordan.
The Malditas beat Iran, Iraq and Tajikistan in lopsided victories and needed only a draw against Bahrain to finish second in their group. Even though the Philippines ended at the runner-up spot, they qualified to the next round as Jordan, being the host, automatically gets in.
This is the first time the nation advanced to the next stage of the Asian Cup since its creation in 2006. The Philippine Women’s National Team had previously joined the tournament eight times when it was still called the Asian Women’s Championship but was not fortunate to qualify to the next round.
Second to Jordan in their group, the Philippines is the second top seed followed by Bahrain and then the United Arab Emirates following the FIFA rankings. Tajikistan and Iraq are currently unranked and newbies in the playing field, details that the Philippines took advantage of during their matches.
An incredible performance
The lady booters went on to beat Iraq and UAE both with a 4-0 result and proceeded to demolish Tajikistan on an 8-0 victory.
The match against Bahrain was another story as it was the first time that goalkeeper Inna Palacios conceded a score. But the team was relentless and their tenacity was soon rewarded when Sara Castaneda netted the lone goal for the Philippine side late in the second half to draw the match.
The draw was enough to send them through even though they had a remaining match against Jordan, where the team experienced their first loss and bowed down to the hosts with a 5-1 result.
Nineteen homegrown and international-based players composed the Philippine squad headed by Coach Letecia Bautista, the first female coach to handle the Malditas and herself a former member of the national team.
She is seconded by assistant coaches Alfredo Rey Estacion, Merlie Acibar and Josephine Loren, while Jimmy Dimzon takes charge of the goalkeepers. Completing the management team are physiotherapist Isabel Sison and team manager Maria Lalaine Sarmiento.
Veteran Inna Palacios from the De La Salle University and Hazel Romina Arce from the Far Eastern University are both assigned as first and second goalkeepers, respectively.
At the back line are US-based Claire Lim from the University of California, Patricia Tomanon from the Florida International University and Hali Long from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Also part of the defense are locals Mary Cristine Duran from DLSU, Alesa Dolino from the club OutKast FC, Zhyrelle Belluga of FEU and Joanna Almeda from the De La Salle Zobel High School.
The midfield is commanded by Patrice Impelido of Hiraya FC, Sara Castañeda of DLSU and Hanna Parado from the University of North Florida. Meanwhile, featured on the wings are Aira Agustin from the University of the Philippines, Jovelle Sudaria from FEU, Anicka Castañeda from DLSZ, Nina Arrieta from DLSU and returning national team member Irish Navaja from DLSU.
In the forward posts are Alisha Del Campo from DLSZ and Eva Madarang from Moorpark College California.
The Philippines along with host Jordan, Thailand, Japan, China, Australia and the top of Groups B and D are headed to Jordan in 2018 to compete for the final round. The tournament will also double as the qualification round for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.