May 29, 2024

FIELD GOALS | Filipinas challenging the best to become elite

FIELD GOALS | Filipinas challenging the best to become elite
The 39th ranked Filipinas are going into the friendlies as heavy underdogs, with the Koreans holding the 20th spot in the world rankings. Art by Mitzi Solano/One Sports
The Filipinas were tussling with some of the best in women’s football when they featured in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and the team is determined to maintain their good standing amongst the elite of the world.


Coach Mark Torcaso doesn’t listen to K-Pop or watch K-Drama, but he will probably get a crash course on what it means to be an ARMY if and when the McDaniel sisters start blasting BTS in the Filipinas’ April training camp in South Korea.


“Everyone just really enjoys each other’s company in the environments that we go to,” Torcaso said.


“While it is pressured and it’s hard working, every single person, right from sir Jeff right down to our kit man, everyone works extremely hard for all our national teams. It is absolutely a pleasure.”


It is a fun vibe to a hard task at hand for the Filipinas, who face will off against South Korea in a pair of friendlies at the Incheon Sports Complex.


The 39th ranked Filipinas are going into the friendlies as heavy underdogs, with the Koreans holding the 20th spot in the world rankings.


But it is in these types of tests where the Filipinas are looking to progress.


“We want to be playing against these types of teams, like we did at the Pinatar Cup, to constantly challenge our players,” Torcaso said.


“Also for us as coaches to give ourselves the best chance to see how our talent goes up against the best.”


In the Pinatar Cup held last February in Spain, the Philippines faced strong European competition and dropped a 2-0 loss to Scotland, before a 1-0 defeat to Slovenia.


This habit of facing some of the best in the world is the methodology the Filipinas are banking on to reach that elite level. It’s an approach Torcaso hopes could result in silverware in the next calendar year.


“It’s just about being able to put up our girls against some really good competition to constantly build for obviously what’s coming next for us in the next 12 months,” he said. “With the AFF tournament and SEA Games coming up next year.”


Apart from building on the existing crop of players, Torcaso is incorporating some younger pieces into the national team program.


The Philippines called up two members of the U20 side in Natalie Oca and Chayse Ying, and three from the U17 squad in Alexa Pino, Nina Matheus, and Aiselyn Sia to supplement the main squad.


The reason for bringing in select youth players into the senior squad is simply to get them acclimated to the level of training and preparation required at that level. 


“It is very important for us to give those players that exposure,” Torcaso said. 


“That opportunity to train and play in these types of environments. Travel into different countries that they have never travelled to before.”


The connection between the U17 and senior team in particular is almost seamless, with Sinisa Cohadzic playing the role of head coach to the U17 team and assistant coach to Torcaso in the seniors.


It is an arrangement they hope results in more youth team players getting ready to jump into the rigors of being a full national team regular.


“That connection between the two teams, we are trying to close that gap between the quality of players in our 17s,” Torcaso added. "Obviously because we want to constantly increase our pool of players.”


The Filipinas senior team do not have any major tournaments this year, which makes international breaks like these the ideal time to discover more about each player and the group as a whole.


The target for Torcaso and the squad is to win trophies in 2025, which is a realistic prospect considering the preparation the team is going through. 


As for the short term, neutrals will most likely favor South Korea to come out on top of both friendly games.


Torcaso opines scrapping out a result against South Korea will be difficult, but the mindset of the Filipinas is only geared to getting the win.


“While we believe we can win every single game, because that’s the mentality we have to have, we have to understand the need to respect the opponent and the quality they have as well.”


The Filipinas face South Korea in friendlies on April 5 and 8 at the Incheon Sports Complex in Incheon, South Korea.