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Sports

World Cup-bound Filipinas eye podium finish in AFF Women's Championship

Luisa Morales - Philstar.com
World Cup-bound Filipinas eye podium finish in AFF Women's Championship
Philippine women's national football team coach Alen Stajcic
PWNT / Raymond Braganza

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine women's national football team are not getting ahead of themselves despite training their sights on the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, as their campaign in the AFF Women's Championship here in Manila kicks off on Monday.

While acknowledging that development in time for their historic appearance in the World Cup is the top priority, Filipinas coach Alen Stajcic said that making sure to perform well in the tournament — especially since it will be staged on home soil — is also pivotal.

"Yeah, we do have one eye on the World Cup. But look, the short term is very important," Stajcic said in the team's press conference Wednesday.

"It's a tough group, [and] we've probably got the toughest team in the tournament in the first game in Australia," he added.

Stajcic's wards have been grouped with the Matildas, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia in Group A.

And though Australia will likely pull back its efforts with some of their key players missing, Stajcic believes it will still be a great challenge for the Filipinas.

"You know Australia they might've missed some of their top players, their eight or 10 top players in their A team might not be here but their back up squad and their depth is very strong so you know, having spent the last six, seven weeks of preparation in Australia, I'm sure the girls know how tough that game will be, having played a lot of local teams in Australia while we were there," he said.

Despite the tall task of facing the likes of the Matildas and regional powerhouse Thailand, Stajcic is looking at the brighter side of things and will aim to learn a lot from the challenges ahead.

"Look, it's gonna be a very tough challenge. But playing against different styles is always the best part as well, and Australia presents a different style to Thailand, and Thailand presents a different challenge to all the teams in the group so there's a lot of different aspects to the tournament that make it really exciting," he said.

Apart from learning, though, the Aussie mentor wants his team to be able to make history anew and finish with a medal, which will mark the first time they would do so in the AFF Women's Championship.

"One, wanting to win the tournament, and win a medal which I believe we haven't done before, a little bit like we did in the SEA Games. We were really proud to get the medal and look, we'll be aiming for a medal as well," he said.

"As much as development is important, we want to be a winning team and have a winning mentality so trying to get on the podium is definitely a massive priority," he continued.

All games for the Filipinas are expected to be played at the Rizal Memorial Stadium where fans will be permitted to watch and cheer for the history-making squad.

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