The Philippines national women’s football team made history when they qualified for the 2023 FIFA World Cup. No Philippines team – men or women – have qualified for the World Cup before. They beat Chinese Taipei 4-3 on penalties in the quarter-finals of the AFC Asian Cup after the match ended 1-1 in regulation time.
The Philippines added their name to the 36 other countries that have previously qualified for the World Cup. They will be joined in the semi-finals by China, Japan and South Korea.
The Asian Cup also serves as a qualifying tournament for the World Cup. The four semi-finalists automatically qualify for the tournament. The losing quarter-finalists go into a playoff, whereby each team plays each other. The team with the highest points after these matches goes through to the World Cup.
The Philippines were on a dream run in the tournament and it all started with a victory over Thailand in their first match. This was a huge upset as Thailand had qualified for the 2015 and 2019 World Cups and were major favorites going into the match. It was a real boost to the team as they had never beaten Thailand in their previous 12 matches.
However, in their second match, the Philippines came crashing back to earth when Australia thumped them 4-0. It was ironic that the Australia team’s former coach Alen Stajcic was now in charge of the opposing Malditas.
This now meant that their last group game against Indonesia had become a knockout match with the winner going through to the quarter-finals. The Philippines played the match of their lives and dispatched Indonesia 6-0. They were now through to the next round.
The Philippines’ success has been achieved due to years of careful planning and development. They had a large contingent of US-based players for this tournament. The recruitment process started in 2018 when they called up 14 players who were playing college football at the time. They were involved in their campaign to qualify for the World Cup in 2019, but unfortunately fell short when they finished in fifth place in the qualifiers.
They kept the core of this team and prior to the Asian Cup, had a two-month-long period of training in a camp in California before traveling to India. The results of this planning and hard work certainly showed on the field as they progressed further than more fancied teams such as Australia, who were dumped out in the quarter-finals.
The success of the Philippines women’s team has created an uproar in Australia as many had questioned Football Australia’s decision to controversially sack current Philippines head coach Stajcic. Stajcic and his coaching team are out of contract now, but the Philippine Football Federation was quick to act, with the president Mariano Araneta saying that they will do whatever it takes to keep him.