May 29, 2024

FIELD GOALS | Young Filipinas hope to emulate World Cup seniors

FIELD GOALS | Young Filipinas hope to emulate World Cup seniors
The pathway to the world stage is a top-3 finish in the AFC U17 Asian Cup happening in Bali, Indonesia. Art by Mitzi Solano | Photos (c) Ang Liga/XC Santos
Filipinas co-captains Hali Long and Tahnai Annis, along with veteran keeper Inna Palacios, watched the future of Filipino football with cautious optimism over the prospect of what could be.


The trio were present to see the U17 Philippine team take down PFF Women’s League finalists Manila Diggers, 3-0, in a tune-up game last Sunday, April 28. This was a few days after the U17s edged Women’s League champions Kaya FC, 1-0, in another exhibition.




Just like their “ates” in the senior team last year — the  Philippines U17 Women’s National Team are dreaming of making it to the 2024 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup in October.


The pathway to the world stage is a top-3 finish in the AFC U17 Asian Cup happening from May 6 through 19 in Bali, Indonesia, where they will go face-to-face with the likes of South and North Korea, Japan, and Australia.


The young Filipinas have been preparing for the Asian meet since qualifying for the tournament back in September 2023.


Their preparation consisted of a training camp in Pinatar, Spain where they went toe-to-toe against their counterparts from England and Sweden, before another camp at the Vermosa Sports Hub in Cavite where they played a series of friendlies against local sides both senior and U17.


The team itself will be picked out from a 30-woman national pool carved out of multiple talent identification camps in Spain, the USA, and in Manila, ensuring the national team coaching staff had a good idea of the talent at their disposal.


The U17 Filipinas head coach Sinisa Cohadzic lauded the build up to the Asian tournament and even considers it as an edge over their opponents.
“We are very confident that we got this group of players ready and we are very confident that they have the support and the best resources possible to get them to that objective,” Cohadzic said. “That is probably the advantage that we will have.”


Annis, who will be with the girls throughout the tournament as part of the staff and as a mentor, highlighted the support the girls received in preparation for Bali. She also noted the overall talent level of the group ahead of crunch moments in a World Cup qualifying campaign.


“That kind of support system is what helps you get through those moments and succeed in those moments.” Annis said. 


Annis also had the opportunity to play with some of the girls in the recently-concluded senior national team camp in South Korea last April.


Goalkeeper Gabrielle Baker, defender Aiselyn Sia, midfielder Alexa Pino, and forward Nina Mathelus all trained with their seniors and gained valuable experience.


“Honestly it is a very big difference coming from the seniors to here. The speed of play is different, the way the players see the game, and the maturity. It is a very nice environment to be in,” Pino said. “I think that has definitely helped me bring things that I have worked on there into the under 17s.”


With a long period of preparation and a wide range of opponents offering different challenges with each practice match, the next thing to do is to see how this all finally culminates in the upcoming Asian Cup.


Their first assignment would be against hosts Indonesia on May 6, followed by stern tests against North Korea and South Korea on May 9 and May 12, respectively.




Waiting in the knockout stages, should the Filipinas advance as a top-two finisher in the group, are potential matchups with defending champions Japan, Australia, and China.


Should the Filipinas progress to the knockouts they will only need one win, either in the semifinals or a potential battle for third, to book a ticket to the Dominican Republic for the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. 


Cohadzic couldn’t make any guarantees as to how the Philippines will do in the tournament, but was sure that the character of the team would not allow themselves to give anything less than everything.


“One thing this team has is passion to play the game. That passion will flow into the tournament,” the U17 mentor said. “They will never die wondering what is going to happen [if they didn’t give their all]. That is something that we can rely on and be very confident that we will bring that.”