IT’S great to hear that the Philippines U16 Girls have advanced to the second round of the U16 Women’s Championship 2019 Qualifiers of the Asian Football Confederation.
The feat came after a spirited performance during the first round of qualification held in Nepal held last September 19 to 23, but not after going through the eye of the needle.
Playing in Group E, the girls started strong by beating hosts Nepal 4-0, then followed this up with a 1-0 win over Malaysia. The Philippines, though, were overwhelmed by Myanmar 1-5 in their final match.
Still, the Philippines took the last slot among the best second-placed teams, enough to book the team a place in the second round that’s taking place this February.
Joining the Philippines in the second round of the biennial event are Australia, Bangladesh, China, Iran, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. The draw and match dates have yet to be announced.
Head coach Joyce Landagan, team manager Eleonora Dillera and assistant coach Marielle Benitez know that much needs to be done to get past the second round for a ticket to the 2019 AFC U-16 Women’s Championship slated in September next year in Thailand.
A favorable draw would give the Philippines a big chance of going to the final tournament in Thailand, since the top two teams from each of the two groups will advance.
Of course, it would take more than luck to pull off an achievement of such magnitude, but the team has around four months to make the necessary adjustments and hone the team into a more competitive unit, mentally, physically and tactically.
This is one young team to keep an eye on.
While it’s too early to celebrate, the takeaway from the first round results is that the girls’ team is on the right track and their achievement says a lot about the development of women’s football in the country.
This is in stark contrast to their male counterparts, where the U16 boys team earned the sorry distinction as the region’s whipping boys, and by region, we’re talking here only about Southeast Asia.
In the Asean Football Federation U16 Youth Championship held last July and August in Indonesia, the Philippines U16 Boys crashed out of the group stage without a win.
Like lamb to the slaughter, the team had no idea what they’d gotten themselves into, conceding a whopping 30 goals in five matches, while scoring only three.
That they lost to “minnows” Timor-Leste and Cambodia reveals aplenty about the country’s listless youth program for men’s football.
If not for the beacon of hope that is the girls’ team, youth football in the country would be a bleak, disquieting place.