By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
WITH their chances in the ongoing AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2018 campaign already dashed after failing to land in the top two of their bracket in group play, the Philippine national women’s football team now channels its focus in qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup next year in a key match today against South Korea.
Both wound up at third spot in Group A and B in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, respectively, the Philippine Malditas and South Korea dispute the final World Cup berth at stake in their battle for fifth place at the Amman International Stadium in Jordan early Tuesday morning (Manila time).
It is a match that the Malditas recognize as not going to be easy but something they look forward to, seeing it as a good opportunity to gain so much for the country’s women’s football program.
“We still have a chance to qualify for the World Cup, so we must play without any pressure. The Philippines have absolutely nothing to lose as nobody really expected us to be in the position that we find ourselves in. We must give our all, as we have 90 minutes to reach the World Cup, it is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime moment for my players. If they all do their very best, they can achieve their goals,” Malditas coach Rabah Benlarbi was quoted as saying by the official Asian Football Confederation website in the lead-up to their match against South Korea.
Against the Koreans, Mr. Benlarbi said the odds are against them but he is not completely ruling out their chances.
“I am a little surprised to be playing Korea Republic as they were one of the best teams in Group B and deserved, in my opinion, to go to the semifinals and of course the World Cup,” said the Malditas coach.
“In football, though, you always have a chance. We know the strengths that the Koreans have, that they are a very compact team and that they are the only team to have not conceded at this tournament. They do not have many weakness, but they have a few and we will try to focus on those. It will be difficult, but we have one or two possibilities and we will use those to score against them,” Mr. Benlarbi added.
Already through the semifinals of the AFC Women’s Cup 2018 and earned berths for the World Cup in 2019 are China and Thailand from Group A and Australia and Japan from Group B.
China and Thailand edged the Philippines for the top two in their group, winning, 3-0 and 3-1, respectively.
The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be played in France.