The Philippines journey in the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup has come to an end. It was a historic run for the Malditas, and a memorable one for their new head coach Alen Stajcic.
The Malditas, the Filipino national women's team, have made history this past fortnight. Not only did they make it to semi-finals of the AFC Women's Asian Cup, but in the process they qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup for the first time in their history.
Malditas AFC Women's Asian Cup Journey
- The Malditas progressed to the semi-finals of the competition, their best performance ever.
- They also qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, their first appearance in football's biggest competition.
- The Filipinas were lead by their Australian head coach Alen Stajcic.
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The road to this unprecedented Philippines success was not accidental. The Malditas spent 10 weeks in California preparing for this year's Women's Asian Cup. The squad was boosted by a recent identification and recruitment drive of players from the Filipino diaspora, including American raised or based players.
It was also boosted by the recruitment of former Matildas head coach Alen Stajcic last October. The manager, who joined the side on a short-term contract, lead the Malditas through this year's AFC Women's Asian Cup.
Prior to the 2022 tournament the Philippines had only exited the Group Stage on one occasion, in 2018, where they finished sixth in the competition. They had also never qualified for the FIFA Women's World Cup.
That all changed this week. After a strong Group Stage that saw only one defeat to the Matildas, the Malditas made history by securing an AFC Women's Asian Cup semi-finals place and FIFA Women's World Cup qualification after winning their Quarter-Finals match against Chinese Taipei.
They met South Korea yesterday in the Semi-Finals, ultimately losing 2-0. Their head coach Stajcic will not allow this defeat to overshadow all the team has accomplished though.
"When you create history almost every time you step on the field," head coach Alen Stajcic said after the game, "There's nothing more you can ask."
Stajcic, who confirmed to FTBL earlier this week that he has yet to decide whether he will remain with the Malditas through to 2023 Australia and New Zealand, did not shy away from stating how this tournament ranked in his illustrious coaching career.
"I think this is probably the best experience, I think, in my coaching career," the former Matildas coach said. "I've been coaching for 20 years."
"To take this group who are so dedicated, so determined, so much discipline, so much heart, so much spirit, considering what they've had to overcome to this point.
"I don't think I've ever had to coach a group who's had so many hurdles to overcome just in the preparation, let alone the tournament.
"To get to this level, and to fight and compete up until the last kick of a semifinal is truly just such a remarkable effort.
"It's really emotional, watching them try right to the last second of the game.
"There are so many teams who would have given up and thrown in the towel.
"It has been a wonderful experience getting to know every player, every member of our staff.
"It's such a unified group, such a close group, and again, as I said before, it's no surprise that the whole country back home in the Philippines is really proud of the group."
At present they have no immediate games scheduled. They do know of three matches though that will take place though next year, at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup. Fans of the side will wonder if their Australian coach Stajcic will be leading the Filipino side in the tournament being co-hosted by his home nation.
Either way the Malditas and their head coach can be proud of all that has been accomplished.
Further AFC news can be found on their website.