Limpag: The Malditas are not done setting records

·3 min read

The Malditas are 3-0 with 12 points as I write this on a Saturday night, hours before their fourth game against Indonesia in the Asean Football Federation Women’s Championship.

They should be 4-0 when you read this on print perhaps with five or even six goals added to their healthy tally of 12 in their first three games.

Though assured of a semis spot, the game against Thailand on Tuesday will still be crucial, not only for both but for Australia as well. For the Malditas, called by some as the Filipinas, it means avoiding Group B’s top team, expected to be Vietnam, in the semis. For Australia, a healthy win by the Philippines might mean the Matildas getting a semis spot via goal difference.

We’ve had three different keepers in the first three wins and coach Allan Stajcic has also varied the starting lineup, especially against the relatively weaker sides. That for me shows two things—the depth of the team and that coach Stajcic has his eye on a bigger prize, the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup. He’s experimenting with the lineup, testing the younger players’ composure in big games.

I once said, in a previous post, that for Philippine football, the AFF Suzuki Championships is a realistic target in our lifetime, instead of appearing in the World Cup, I have to revise that; I think our ladies team will win its first AFF title before the men’s team, it’s just sad that despite their success, they’ve been overlooked.

Heck, I didn’t even know that in 2019, they made the semis of the same tournament.

Now, of course, social media has made sure that fans are aware of their achievement but again, it’s just too bad that social media support doesn’t translate to bodies in the stands. There are a lot of reasons, and not all of them are football-related. The economy, traffic situation and work conditions in Manila now are not the same as the Azkals’ heydays, which saw a Rizal Memorial Stadium packed to its rafters.

I agree with coach Stajcic, this team deserves a full stadium.

I have a feeling that after winning the first medal for the Philippines in football in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games a couple of months ago, this team—whether you call them the Malditas or Filipinas—will set another record.

Yes, we had a bronze in 1983, but that women’s competition only had three teams so I consider the 2022 bronze the first medal we won.

In 2016, our U14 girls’ team finished second to Thailand in the AFC Regional Tournament, the first time a youth team earned a medal. A year later, that same team finished second to Thailand in the AFF U15 competition, becoming the most successful youth team from the Philippines in a regional competition.

This year, after clinching a spot in the World Cup for the first time, the Malditas followed that up with a SEA Games bronze.

Will a gold at home in the AFF Women’s Championship be next?

Let’s all find out shall we and if you can, go see in person.

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