Phl Malditas achieved milestone despite loss

Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - May 27, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine Malditas coach Ernie Nierras expressed belief that despite falling short of their objective in the AFC Asian Women’s Cup qualifiers in Dhaka, Bangladesh, things still look up for the Pinay booters.

The Malditas, behind the brace of Marisa Park, drubbed host Bangladesh last Saturday night, 4-0, to finish second in the Group B qualifiers with three points on a 2-0-1 win-draw-loss card behind the perfect nine (3-0-0) of winner Thailand.

As group topnotchers, the Thais, who completed an undefeated run via a 5-1 rout of Iran to complement back-to-back triumphs over Bangladesh (9-0) and the Malditas (1-0), netted the lone berth to the 2014 Asian Cup, itself a qualifying event for the 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup.

“I am so proud of this team,” said coach Ernie Nierras of his wards, who entered the group qualifiers as only the third-best side in terms of Fifa world rankings at 83rd.

“In only six  weeks of training, the Malditas have proven that they are much better than their current ranking. Now we know what we can do as a team. We will only get better. Finally, the girls are starting to play to their potential – learning new formations, learning different strategies, and others. The future is bright for the Malditas,” he added.

Beefed up by recruits from US NCAA division 1 players, the Malditas started the tourney with a 6-0 upset over No. 52 Iran. But they lost to the 29th ranked Thais in a close 0-1 decision, putting their World Cup aspirations in jeopardy. The Thais eventually shut that door by beating Iran on the last day, rendering the Malditas’ concluding game against the Bangladeshis a non-factor in the race for Asian Cup berths.

“It will be hard to accept that we will not be going to the AFC finals because of 1 goal – the goal of Thailand. My hats off to Thailand. We will meet again (in the Asean Football Federation and the SEA Games),” said Nierras.

He expects the Malditas to move up in Fifa rankings as a result of this campaign.

“To Fifa: Be gracious in our ranking next month. Know that only a few teams have dominated Iran. Look out for the Malditas because we are targeting to be ranked in the 30’s by the end of 2013!” Nierras said.

Although no longer in the running for a qualification slot, the Malditas took a business-like approach against Bangladesh.

Forward Park converted the first goal off a neat pass by midfielder Shelby Salvacion in the 18th minute and then Christina de los Reyes doubled the lead 11 minutes later when she pounced on a failed clearance to send the ball in.

Defender Cat Barnekow made it 3-0 in the 84th with a booming shot from almost halfway that bounced once and went in. Finally, Park capped her heroics with a header in the fifth minute of injury time as Phl made a positive end to their failed bid.

“We need to take this to the next level. We need to address some key issues in our organization to help strengthen women’s football development in the Philippines,” Nierras said while thanking their supporters.

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