DON’T look now, but the Philippine Women’s National Football Team is on course to making its first ever semifinals appearance in the AFF Women’s Championship.

Despite losing to hosts Thailand last Wednesday, the Malditas lived up to their name with a feisty performance that bodes well for their ongoing campaign in Chonburi and upcoming tournaments.

Before Wednesday’s defeat, the Philippines won their first two matches in Group A: 3-0 against Malaysia and 7-0 against Timor-Leste. But Thailand is of a different level. Consider this: the Thais fielded a formidable, experienced side, seven of whom were called up for the recently concluded 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup.

In contrast, the Malditas are fairly a young team. And yet the upset they nearly pulled off against the defending AFF champions gave every team in the tournament something to chew on.

The score in the IPE Stadium ended 4-2 in favor of the Thais, but not before a couple of scares. Maldita midfielder Quinley Quezada opened the scoring in the 11th minute off a counter, but Thai forward Chaiyarak Jaruwan equalized just five minutes later.

The first half ended 1-1, but just 16 minutes after the restart, the Philippines did the unthinkable again and took the lead anew with Quezada scoring her second.

Given little chance against Thailand, the Malditas seemed unperturbed for three quarters of the match, playing a solid defensive game and inflicting damage against a superior opponent.

So for a moment there, while watching the match live online on, I entertained the thought that the Philippines could actually do the improbable against a dominant team.

And even when Thongsumbut Rattikan drew level on the 74th minute, I thought it would still be a great result for the Philippines if the scoreline stayed that way until the final whistle.

The draw wasn’t meant to be. Just seconds after the equalizer, player of the match Intamee Silawan gave Thailand the lead for the first time. Boothduang Wilaiporn then sealed the win on the 90th. Perhaps the Thais were too strong for the young Malditas, who, apparently unable to handle two unprecedented leads they had taken, crumbled under relentless pressure.

It is during matches like these that match experience comes in handy, and the Thais had plenty of it. Excluding newcomer Jaruwan who scored the first equalizer, the other three Thai goalscorers are certified veterans who have played for the national team at least 50 times each.

But for showing tenacity against such an experienced side, the Malditas, as well as the coaching staff under head coach Marnelli Dimzon, should be proud of themselves.

On Aug. 23, at 3 p.m., the Philippines are favorites to win against cellar dwellers Singapore, which have three losses in three matches and are eliminated alongside Timor.