Villaflor: What’s next for the Malditas?

THE Philippine women’s national team is a work in progress.

So how’s the work so far?

Exceeding expectations.

Known as the Malditas, the feisty Philippine team made it to the semifinals of the AFF Women’s Championship for the first time since joining the tournament in 2006.

The Philippines made it this far after dominant wins over Malaysia, Timor-Leste and Singapore, with its lone loss to defending champions Thailand, 4-2, to earn a spot in the semis, where it lost against Vietnam, 2-1.

Regardless of the result on Tuesday’s encounter against Myanmar for third (I am writing this piece hours before the match), the Malditas could consider this campaign in Chonburi, Thailand a success.

How so? The Asean tournament has been dominated by three teams in the region: Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. Thailand has emerged champions four times, while both Vietnam and Myanmar twice.

So, for the Philippines to put up a convincing challenge against the region’s traditional powerhouses is no mean feat.

In their Group A encounter against Thailand, the Philippines took the lead twice before capitulating to a much-stronger team with a battle-hardened core of veterans.

In their semis match against Vietnam last Sunday, again, the Philippines took an early lead only to lose it after a few minutes, just like in the match against the Thais.

The Malditas nearly pulled off upsets on both occasions, but both Thailand and Vietnam showed why they deserve to be in the championship match. But the gap is getting narrower with every game.

Having the resiliency and mindset to win in pressure-cooker matches can only be learned through experience, so it’s a good thing that the Malditas have a number of tournaments lined up ahead.

One is the coming Southeast Asian Games that the Philippines will be hosting this November, during which the same AFF teams will be seeing action.

Even as hosts, the Philippines shouldn’t be pressured to lift the women’s football trophy, although no less than a semifinals appearance with some giant-slaying on the side will make the home crowd delirious.


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