The full roster of the Philippine women’s national football team is expected to assemble when it holds a training camp ahead of the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament second round this October.
The mission remains firm for the 44th-ranked Filipinas as they vie for an Olympic spot against the best teams in the world with the qualifying tournament serving as a major hurdle to their Paris Games aspirations.
After the historic debut at the FIFA Women’s World Cup last July, where the Philippines claimed its maiden win against tournament co-host New Zealand, the Filipinas made another promising international appearance when they reached the quarterfinals of the Asian Games in China last week.
Though the Nationals fell to world No. 8 Japan in the knockout round of the continental meet, the members of the Asiad group took on the responsibility and fought hard in the absence of some key players.
Unfortunately, the Asiad was halfway through the FIFA window which forced some members to beg off from duty due to club commitments overseas.
This time, losing and dealing with missing pieces shouldn’t be an option for the Filipinas after landing in Group A of the second round as they were tangled with Australia (No. 11), Chinese Taipei (No. 38) and Iran (No. 63).
It’s another tough climb for the Filipinas agains familiar foes including Chinese Taipei, which they defeated during a dramatic qualifying penalty shootout, 4-3, in the 2022 AFC Asian Women’s Cup to reach the World Cup.
The Filipinas had also faced the Aussies twice last year including a match against their under 23 team at the 2022 AFF Women’s Championship that the Philippines went on to win.
With the departure of Alen Stajcic after their dream run at the football showpiece, newly appointed head coach Australian Mark Torcaso and the Filipinas found themselves racing against time due to the short turnaround.
“I hope we’ll have every player available for the Olympic Qualifiers. I think the difficulty with this tournament was that it was halfway through the FIFA window and that’s why we had players who were unavailable for the entire tournament or much of the tournament. So, we believe we won’t have that issue going into the Olympic Qualifiers. We have plans to have a mini camp prior to arriving in Perth, at the moment, as I understand almost every player’s available for that competition which gives us a very good headache as coaches because we had some fantastic performance in this tournament as well,” said Torcaso.
During the Asiad and before heading to Perth, though, Torcaso has been in contact with the rest of the players who were attending club duties in Angela Beard, Alicia Barker and even Katrina Guillou, who had to cut her Asiad appearance short.
Still, Torcaso was glad to make reliable discoveries in their Asian Games campaign and to improve the chemistry between the Filipinas and the fairly new coaching staff.
“It was very important, like we had a unique opportunity to work with these players in the tournament prior to the Olympic Qualifiers, and that’s the one thing we were happy with. Obviously, coming in and being appointed on such a short notice, we wanted to get as much time with the players as possible, so obviously we had a number of experienced or stronger players that were unavailable. But it gave us a chance to look at the immediate next group of players within this camp. So, it was totally valuable for us,” said Torcaso.
“It was an amazing opportunity to work with these players in a good competition to give them the opportunity to be selected in the Olympic Qualifiers. So, it definitely served its purpose. We got to play against some good countries and got a feel of what it’s like to play against two top 20 nations well. So it was very, very important for us,” he added.
The Filipinas will need a runner-up finish at best if they seek to make another historic appearance, this time at the Olympiad as the third round will only feature the three group winners and best group runners-up from the second round, with the two third round winners qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The pressure to prove themselves continues as the Filipinas’ game against the Matildas on Oct. 29 was even moved to a bigger venue due to ‘soaring demands’ for tickets.