Coach Alen Stajcic says they have yet to find their rhythm in Phnom Penh.
After splitting their first two outings against Myanmar and Malaysia, the Philippine women's national football team (PWNFT) hasn't exactly shown its A-game yet in the preliminaries of the football tournament in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Cambodia.
Against their next opponents this Tuesday, the Filipinas might be ripe for a breakout performance. They, however, may need more than late goals in this upcoming match, as they are going up against highly-touted Vietnam.
To keep their gold medal bid alive, Sarina Bolden and company need to win over the Vietnamese—a team that's ranked 33rd in the world and like the Philippines, is also headed to the FIFA Women's World Cup in July.
Filipinas coach Alen Stajcic understands what's at stake.
“It’s a must-win game for us [against] Vietnam. It’s a tough game, they’re on top of the group," Stajcic told reporters after the Filipinas barely got past Malaysia on Saturday.
For the PWNFT to get the much-needed victory, the Filipina spikers need to be in top form. Finding their rhythm and finally showing out against Vietnam is possible, according to Stajcic.
“We can’t leave anything in the locker room. We have to put it all out on the pitch," he said. "Sometimes, you have good periods with the team. Sometimes, you have to work hard and fight your way back to form.”
The Australian tactician admits they need to take any spark they can get.
“Things can change very quickly in a football match and in the tournament. And we need to find something big,” he said.
The Filipinas, ranked no. 49 in the world, already have one spark, at least, which is history. They previously defeated Vietnam, 4-0, in the semifinals of last year's AFF Women's Championship.
Stajcic believes, nonetheless, that going into this SEA Games matchup with an all-or-nothing mindset is the right approach.
“I have a lot of respect for Vietnam, but for us it’s life and death. So, we need to go into the match and fight with everything we have,” the Filipinas mentor said.
The Philippines will go up against Vietnam tomorrow at 5 p.m. Manila time.