We may never see the Azkals make the Fifa World Cup in our lifetime. The gap is just too big to overcome. But for the women’s team—the Malditas—making the World Cup is a very realistic target and it could come in 2023.
After months-long training in the United States, the Malditas flew to Uzbekistan and showed Nepal the meaning of never-say-die in their first game.
With only three teams in Group F, you have to win your first match to have any chance of making the final stage and 89 minutes on, it looked like Nepal was headed for a win. But an 89th minute goal by Tahnai Annis and an injury time winner by Camille Wilson changed all of that.
I can just imagine the reaction of the family members of the team who were watching the livestream with those last-minute goals. What an impact it would have been to the women’s game had the match been aired on free TV here.
Then came Hong Kong and this time, the Malditas didn’t leave it late, winning 2-1 with Annis and Chandler McDanielto becoming just the second team after South Korea to make it through the qualifiers. Host India along with Japan (2018 champion), Australia (2018 runner-up) and China (2018 third placer) got automatic spots.
The Asian Cup will be held early next year but the Malditas have set their eyes further, the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup as there will be five slots in the offing.
“As further motivation to the players, we came up with the rallying cry of ‘Remember The Goal,’ which is to qualify for the Fifa Women’s World Cup in 2023,” coach Marlon Maro said before the Group F qualifiers started.
They sure did.
Since it’s the Asian Cup, hopefully the Malditas matches will be aired live on free TV here in the country. Girls football in the country, especially in Cebu, has been on a steady rise for almost a decade. Two decades ago, there was only a women’s open, with at most three teams. In the mid 2000s, with the rise of the weekend seven-a-side tournaments, there were already two or three girls divisions. But since 2010, girls as young as seven have been joining tournaments, while the youth divisions start at 13-Under, all the way to 18-Under.
Seeing the Malditas in the Asian Cup and possibly the World Cup will be a huge boost to girls football, knowing that the Philippines is at par with Asia’s best.