I EXPECTED that the Philippines would have a hard time against traditional powerhouse Vietnam in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) U15 Girls championship but that 2-0 loss wasn’t that bad.
Against Myanmar though, the girls blew expectations through the roof. Facing a team that got past 26 goals against East Timor in the first day, they were brimming with confidence. The Pinays sent Myanmar back to Earth with a 5-0 thrashing capped by an exquisite goal from Cebuana Raya Tolentino that’s going to be featured in highlight years for years to come.
I was following the game on Twitter but when I saw someone post, “I believe the skipper just scored from half-court,” I knew I had to check the highlights of the match. And it didn’t disappoint.
I wasn’t surprised too that Tolentino was picked as the captain of the squad. Days earlier, while writing about the Cebuanas who made the squad, coach Apple Bariñan told me that Tolentino was one of those being considered to be the captain but she told me not to write that yet.
So I was elated to learn that the consistent honors student of Sacred Heart School-Ateneo de Cebu got to wear the captain’s armband against Myanmar and capped her stint with that goal.
Getting the ball just beyond the half-court line, the captain, sent it perfectly right smack in the middle of the penalty area, hoping a teammate would connect. Well none--not even the defense--got to the ball and it bounced perfectly over everyone including the keeper who would be having nightmares about that for the rest of her life right into the goal.
By the way, I could detect the sense of shock the writer of the AFF website felt when he wrote that story. The writer compared the result to that of Barcelona shock defeat and that shows you the lengths he or she went to in making sense of that defeat.
He blamed overconfidence but I don’t think Myanmar lost due to being overconfident. How could you be overconfident against the 2017 runner-up? I think it was just the case of the Philippines finally delivering what was expected of them.
They may have lost to Vietnam in the first game, but that doesn’t mean theirs was a lost cause. And in these age group, just as so many a visitor have said, we can compete with the best team of our neighbors.
Vic Hermans, the visiting Dutch futsal legend, was the latest to say it. At 14, our players are at par with Asia’s best. Though he said it of the indoor version of the game, but girls like Tolentino, Mia Evangelista and Maegan Alforque, who also scored against Myanmar, also play futsal.
Why that competitiveness changes or disappears when we got to the older age groups is one that is up for many debates. But at least, for now, in this age group and in this tournament, we are doing the right thing.
The Philippines will play East Timor in its final group stage match, while Myanmar will fight for survival against Vietnam. If both the Philippines and Myanmar win, the Pinays will top their group but I’m not too worried about the girls finishing first or second.
These girls rock!