By NIKOLE JAVIER
The groundwork and timetable are both set for the Philippine women’s national football team as it tackles a busy year ahead.
Riding the momentum of their historic rise, the Filipinas will kick off the year with European action in the 2023 Pinatar Cup in Spain as they take on the higher-ranked sides in Wales, Scotland and Iceland in February.
In April, the Filipinas are then slated to meet Hong Kong, Pakistan and Tajikistan in Group E in the first round of the Olympic Qualifiers where they are seeking to eclipse their previous overall best finish of a second-round appearance during the qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
There will not be much rest for the national team as it heads straight to the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia in May.
The Philippines will attempt a higher finish in the said regional tilt with reigning champions Vietnam and Thailand standing in its way.
“There’s a very real chance right now for our women’s team [to win the gold medal in the SEA Games]. Anything is possible with our kind of preparation and the coaching staff [that we have],” said Philippine Football Federation general secretary Atty. Edwin Gastanes during the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday, Jan. 24 inside the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex.
Meanwhile, the PFF is working on getting the national team involved in more pocket tournaments in the country in June before proceeding to New Zealand for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The Filipinas will be transferred to another base camp in Wellington from Dunedin before heading to Auckland where they will meet up with the 13th-ranked Norway to cap the group stage.
The odds are obviously stacked against the Philippines just in the group stage alone, but a top group finish will let it advance to the Round of 16 and attempt its best finish on the global stage.
Whatever result the Filipinas end up with, they will then be called to participate in the 19th Asian Games in September in China.
Once the national team hurdles its first-round encounters in the Olympic Qualifiers, it will be slated for the following round in October where only four of the remaining 12 participating countries will emerge to battle it out for one of the two tickets.
With two months left in their busy calendar, the Filipinas will be getting down to defend their AFF Championship title sometime in November or December.
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