July 11, 2022

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Filipinas eye fifth straight win as it duels archrival Thailand

HOST Philippines aims for payback, a record-extending fifth straight win and No. 1 spot in the semifinals as it duels with rival Thailand in the last group match of the AFF Women’s Championship on Tuesday night at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Filipinas hit the pitch at 7 p.m. teeming with motivation to go for maximum points versus the Thais in the marquee Group A matchup.

First, Thailand denied the Philippines a place in the last Southeast Asian Games gold medal match with a 3-0 win in the semis in Hanoi and payback at home is a really tantalizing proposition.

Then there’s this chance to further improve on the team’s best start in the tournament, which currently stands at 4-0-0 (win-draw-loss for 12 points) after that 4-1 come-from-behind verdict over Indonesia on Sunday night.

A winning result against the second-running Thais (10 points on 3-1-0) will land the Filipinas top of the table in Group A for a Final Four duel with the No. 2 team from Group B.

A draw will also suffice for the group’s pole position, but a loss will enable the Thais to climb ahead and send the home squad down to the No. 2.

Alen Stajcic’s Philippine charges look to have more supporters in the stands to draw inspiration from, especially with the most important stages up.

“We want this place rocking. We want it full,” Mr. Stajcic ahead of the clash with 2019 runner-up Thailand.

“It’s so good to have a bigger crowd last Sunday (1,474 strong) and the noise and the atmosphere. The bigger the atmosphere, the more chances we have of winning this tournament. That’s the whole point of having hometown advantage — to help us get over the line.”

Against a regional power, the Filipinas can’t afford a listless start like that of the outing versus Indonesia, which caught them with the opening goal.

If anything, that fightback showed the Philippine booters’ resilience and character.

“It’s an important quality within a team to remain calm and composed. Football’s not always going to go your way, sometimes you have a bad day. So for us to come out on top, 4-1, after starting poorly, it’s a good sign,” said Mr. Stajcic.

“We didn’t let that 1-0 (deficit) stop us; we used it as motivation. We’ve been down before so we’re not scared to be down. I’m glad we stuck with it, kept making the runs, kept defending hard. But we got to be better next game against Thailand,” said striker Sarina Bolden, who fired a hat trick versus Indonesia to up her collection to 14 goals in 22 appearances. — Olmin Leyba