Philippines prepare for shot at history
California: With less than 100 days until the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Jordan 2018, the Philippines have embarked on a marathon three-month training camp as they prepare for their first major tournament since 2003.
The camp, which began this week in Corona, California, will include up to 40 players and continue until March, as new head coach Richard Boon looks to mould his squad into a team capable of competing with Asia’s best.
Speaking from the United States, goalkeeper and on-field leader Inna Palacios said such an intensive preparation is necessary.
“We want to give our best efforts when we get to Jordan. Having the camp in California is providing the training and recovery we will need in our preparations up until April,” she said.
“It’s weird being away from home and not having the vibe of the Philippines, but this is the sacrifice asked of us to represent the flag. It’s important to push through adversity.
“We all come from different places and having us all together for this camp helps us bond and get some team chemistry which will hopefully show on the field.”
The Malditas made history last year, becoming the first Filipino senior national team – male or female – to successfully navigate the qualification stages to reach the continental Finals, with their previous appearances in the Women’s Asian Cup taking place in the pre-qualification era.
Following that success, Jordan 2018 presents an opportunity to make a global impact, with the top five teams in the tournament to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup to be held in France in 2019.
Drawn alongside China PR, Thailand and host nation Jordan in Group A, the Philippines are aware of the difficult challenge ahead, but are full of belief.
Cam Rodriquez, who made her senior debut as a teenager in 2009, spoke of her eagerness ahead of Jordan 2018.
“I'm very excited with the journey ahead of us,” said the 23-year old.
“We're already one foot in (reaching this stage) so we need to perform our best in April to get both feet in for the World Cup. It's the World Cup we're talking about. That's something every footballer dreams to be participating in.
“At the end of the day, this is for the betterment of Philippines football, especially for the women's game,” she concluded.
Echoing Rodriguez’s excitement, midfield dynamo Sara Castañeda said the tournament provided a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
A unique feature of the Malditas squad is the combination of homegrown talent and players hailing from the Filipino diaspora, with a significant portion of Boon’s training squad growing up and receiving their football education in the US.
Veteran defender Patrice Impelido, who has lived in both countries, said she has a duty to play a key role.
“I’m feeling the pressure (as a homegrown player), but its also an honour. There will be only seven representing the local talent,” she said.
“Being from the US originally, having played Division One football, living in the Philippines for the past three years, having the most international experience and having been assistant coach for the youth national teams, I have the great responsibility to share my experience, guide, and be an example for all the players.”
The Philippines will begin their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign on April 6, when they meet host nation Jordan at the Amman International Stadium.
Source: Philippines Football Federation