HOW SWEET IT IS!
For the first time since 2003, the Philippine Women’s National Football Team is set to compete in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup. Additionally, this is also initial period in history that the Philippines has advanced in FIFA Women’s World Cup qualification.
After three lopsided wins, all the Filipinas needed was a draw against Bahrain tonight at the Pamir Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
In perhaps their biggest test in this qualifying tournament, the Philippines did just enough to secure a 1-1 result which booked the Pearl of the Orient a ticket to the Jordan 2018 tournament.
“It was a crazy match,” quipped Philippines coach Buda Bautista. “It was like playing for the title. We wanted this more so we were able to bounce back and I am just thankful for the win.”
Bahrain forward Noora SamiI Al-Dossary’s opener threatened to dampen the Philippines’ hopes, only for Sara Castañeda to score the goal which turned the Filipinas’ dreams into reality.
Perhaps with pressure on the side, the Filipinas endured a difficult start to the contest. Wary of the Filipinas’ blistering form, the Bahrainis stifled them with an organized defense as the former lacked the incision they had in their previous games.
Hanna Parado and Eva Madarang had chances before the break, but neither of them found the back of the net.
“At half-time I said to my players that they needed to find some composure. Bahrain also really wanted the slot and we just had to remember how we played in the last three games,” shared Bautista.
Come the second half, it was Bahrain which drew first blood. From a quickly taken set-piece, Aldossary lobbed the ball past Philippines goalie Inna Palacios after 56 minutes of action. That goal was a huge dent to the Filipinas, but they didn’t allow their heads to drop.
Madarang was a constant menace to the Bahrain defense and the Filipino-American forward though she leveled the scores but the linesman raised the flag for offside. The clock was ticking for the Filipinas.
As it stood, Bahrain had a chance to leapfrog the Philippines if they won their next game against winless Iraq. This was the acid test for the Filipinas. The whole team and their supporters were anxious for that one goal to set things right.
That goal arrived just in the nick of time. Come the 82nd minute, Madarang headed the ball towards Castañeda and the midfielder made no mistake as she put the ball to the back of the net.
Jubilation and relief swept across the team and its followers. This was it. Deep in their hearts, they knew that they made it. They needed to hang on for a few more minutes and the Philippines was set to play in the continental competition once again after 15 years.
The Filipinas had chances right at the death, although those didn’t matter as they eventually prevailed 1-0 against Bahrain. Thus the ghosts of the heartbreak against Thailand in 2013, the last time the Philippines came so close to qualifying, were essentially put to rest.
The Philippines will be joining hosts Jordan, Japan, Australia, China, Thailand for the AFC Women’s Asian Cup final round in April 7 next year. Two more berths are still left to play for and will be claimed by winners from groups B and D.
Philippines XI: Palacios, Lim, Dolino, Long, Tomanon, Navaja (Sudaria), Parado, Impelido (C), Castaneda S., Madarang, Castaneda A. (Duran)
Bahrain XI: Al-Khalifa (C), Al-Mudhahki, Yaqoob, Zayed, Aldaaysi, Deena, Al Khalifa, Tobellah, Isa (Alali), Al-Hashimi, Al-Dossary
2019 AFC Women’s Asian Cup Qualifiers Group A Standings
Jordan – 12 points (+30)
Philippines – 10 points (+16)
Bahrain – 5 points (-2)
Tajikistan – 4 points (-7)
United Arab Emirates – 3 points (-19)
Iraq – 0 points (-18)
There is still one more game for the Philippines in this qualifying stage. With only pride left to play for, the Filipinas shall take on this April 12, 4:00 PM (Philippine time) in the Pamir Stadium. Watch that game live here: http://mycujoo.tv/ch/273?id=4550
Photo credit: AFC/Tajikistan Football Federation
Story written by Mia Montayre and Lorenzo Del Carmen