The Philippines Women’s National Team have qualified for the World Cup for the first time in their history.
They proceeded to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup semi-finals by eliminating Chinese Taipei in a tense quarter-final match on penalties. The team exited the tournament after a humble loss to the Korea Republic, but the mark they left in people’s minds has been significant.
But how did this group get here, and what can we expect from them in the future? Will they be a surprise package in Australia and New Zealand at the World Cup? They are unquestionably a team to watch.
The Philippines Women’s National Team (PWNT) formally formed in 1980, following the establishment of the Philippine Ladies’ Football Association (PLFA). Three years later, at the 1983 Asia Cup (formerly the Asian Women’s Championship), they won their first major championship as a national team. The tournament had yet to be sanctioned by FIFA.
The PWNT qualified for the AFC Women’s Championship in 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2003. However, each time, they failed to go past the group round.
The team had their most remarkable performance in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, finishing third in their group and earning a spot in the 2019 World Cup Play-Offs.Embed from Getty Images
Myanmar denied the Philippines a bronze medal at the 2019 Southeast Asian Games held on their some soil. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team had not played any games.
Despite this, they rose to 65th place in the FIFA Women’s World Ranking by the end of 2020, their highest ever. The PWNT won their group games against Nepal and Hong Kong, qualifying for India’s 2022 Women’s Asian Cup.
Tahnai Annis was the team’s top scorer in the qualification, scoring in both games. Alen Stajcic, the former head coach of the Australian National Team, was named the next head coach of the PWNT in October 2021.
Expectations from Women’s Asian Cup, 2022
After the 2018 Asian Cup in Jordan, the Filipinos aimed to qualify for the 2023 World Cup, closer to home in Australia and New Zealand. Philippines National Team photographer Mia Montyre describes it as a ‘gut feeling’ regarding qualifications.
“I just had a strong feeling in my gut that this time for sure, we would make it, unlike last time in Jordan. Only mental toughness lacked at that point, but the team addressed that by the program last year with a sports psychologist to the staff. I was excited to see what the effects would be.”Mia Montyre
Filipino journalist Ryan Fenix saw things heading into the tournament a bit differently.
“Bracketed in a ‘doable’ group brought hope and optimism. And this, of course tempered the fact that we’ve never beaten Thailand before this tournament. But with a long training camp of three months, there was real optimism heading into the tournament.”Ryan Fenix
Referencing the team’s lack of mental toughness, the Philippines were drawn into a group alongside Thailand, who had previously beaten them convincingly. In a perfect World Cup qualification scenario, the Philippines would also meet Chinese Taipei at some point — a squad that has well surpassed the Philippines.
While the team made significant progress in the AFF Women’s Championship, there were a few instances where they took an early lead only to concede later in the game. For the same reason, many fans did not have high expectations, but given the team’s success in the qualifications, there was a sense of optimism and positivity.
“A lot less than what we’ve achieved, to be honest! When we got drawn against Australia, we knew the team had to beat the other two teams in the group to reach the quarter-finals. One of them was Thailand, a team we never beat before. Based on past results, a lot had to be done to even get out of the group stages.”Anonymous PWNT fan
Performance at the Women’s Asian Cup
The Philippines National Team’s performance has been outstanding. From the first game, they showed they came to take home the World Cup qualification and the Asian Cup trophy.
They put Thailand on the back foot and stressed them out, and the tables seemed to have turned. The Philippines put a goal past Thailand to win the first group game with a late screamer from Chandler McDaniel.
If that wasn’t enough of a confidence boost, the team continued their stride against Australia in their next match. They went on to frustrate Australia, keeping the scoreline 0-0 at halftime. Indeed, the Matildas eventually found a way to score four past the Filipinos, but overall, it was an incredible performance.
To end their group stage on a high and grab a second spot, the team played their last group game against Indonesia with high intensity. The Philippines dominated the game and put six past Indonesia, taking their ideal second spot in the Group B standings.
“Very impressed with the team’s performance. In the opening minutes against Thailand, one can already see the strides made under Alen Stajcic. The defence was solid, and you can see that the ladies were playing for more than themselves and were enjoying it. We saw impressive rotation policy from Stajcic. He excluded some names against powerhouses AUS, preserving them for the more important games later on. That is a sign of a coach with good forward-thinking.”Ryan Fenix
History Created: World Cup Qualification
It has been a perfect path for the Filipinos in the Women’s Asian Cup, but they faced another of their nemesis in the quarter-finals, Chinese Taipei.
On the historic night of 30th January, the Philippines qualified for the first time in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup semi-finals and for the first time in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Philippines had reverted to their Matchday One lineup against Thailand for the game against Chinese Taipei. They kept their heavy pressing until their best chance turned into a goal in the 48th minute.
Quezada redirected Katrina Guillou’s header to beat keeper Cheng Ssu-Yu from close range. Chinese Taipei quickly changed their game and attacked ferociously, which paid off for the last-minute equaliser sending the game into extra time.
Both teams were visibly exhausted, and the game remained equal at the end of extra time as neither side could break the deadlock. The Philippines eventually won 4-3 on penalties to advance to the semi-finals and secure a place in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.
“It’s huge, especially for a country whose predominant sport isn’t football. I think it’ll be a lift for Philippine women’s football and Philippine women’s sports.”Angela Guillermo (PWNT Fan)
“The Philippines is a basketball country, but qualifying for the World Cup has brought attention to football, specifically Women’s Football. And it is sorely needed. With the Men’s team not able to match the heady days of 2010-2014, it was down to the women to pick up the cudgels to bring attention back to the sport.”Ryan Fenix
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“It’s huge for the football community here. Everyone is a fan now, whereas before, some only begrudgingly acknowledged the team, forgetting they existed in tournaments while only really supporting the men’s team. And it’s wonderful because everyone is talking about the girls now, and fan clubs of the players are sprouting here and there.”Mia Montyre
Future of Philippines Women’s National Team
With the World Cup qualification achieved, what’s next for this team? The World Cup is a year away.
In April, the PWNT played a few friendly games against Fiji and Tonga, winning each game with ample margins. While also playing in the SEA Games, winning 5-0 against Cambodia, losing 2-1 to Vietnam and losing 3-0 to Thailand in the semi-finals. They played for the Bronze medal against Myanmar and narrowly won. Read more about the game here.
There is still a vast need for visibility and coverage. Games need to be telecasted more often and not just essential games but all games. So far, the coverage seems to be going in the right direction.
“Women’s football can only grow bigger with this remarkable achievement. The onus now is to build on this momentum. Hopefully, we’ll have learned the lessons from the men’s team’s success in 2010.”Ryan Fenix
There is still a need for football to be taken more seriously and focus on the league. While a league does exist, there is a need for it to be more professional and active. There is also a need to invest more into the women’s game and improve at the grassroots level by promoting young talent.
While this predominantly won’t change the country’s mindset of being a significant basketball country, it will ensures that the game is taken more seriously and players won’t have to look for second jobs to make a living.Embed from Getty Images
“My biggest wish is to see that the league here would become a lucrative career path for our players so that they don’t have to get second jobs and just focus on football a hundred per cent.”Mia Montyre
“I’d like to say that the PWNT is in the driver’s seat now and changing the landscape of Philippine Football. I’m excited about the future. We have young players who were part of the Asian Cup team; two were from the U14 and U16. Our youth teams have been doing so well in recent years, giving me a lot of hope.”Pinay Futbol Contributor Venice Furio
With the AFF Championship approaching this July, there’s a lot to look forward to with this team. The Philippines National Team are undoubtedly on a path to becoming the new emerging powerhouse of Asia. We can expect a lot from them in the upcoming future.