The Philippines tackles Thailand today in what promises to be an epic rematch for the AFF Women’s Championship 2022 title at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
After their masterful 4-0 conquest of defending champion Vietnam last Friday in the semis, the Filipinas hope to avenge their only loss in the 11-nation competition against the Thais when they collide at 7:30 p.m. before an anticipated huge hometown crowd at the heritage-rich arena.
The humbled Vietnamese try to salvage their remaining pride as they face Myanmar, which lost to Thailand, 0-2, in the other semifinals match, in the battle for third place earlier at 4 p.m.
With the win, the hosts attained another historic milestone in becoming the first Philippine football squad to reach the final of a major international competition, a significant feat that was not lost on Filipinas coach Alen Stajcic.
“To make the first final in history (by a Philippine football team) is a massive occasion. It is a special moment,” Stajcic noted at the post-match press conference last Friday night.
“It was a complete performance, probably it was the best performance that the Philippine Women’s National Team had in international football,” he stressed of the dominant display that his wards had against the vaunted Vietnamese.
Before entering the semifinal match, the Philippines was considered a longshot against a Vietnam squad as it had never won in seven previous matches in the tournament.
There was also the memory of the close 1-2 setback to the visitors in the group stage of the 31st Southeast Asian Games Women’s Football Tournament only last May in Vietnam.
But playing with supreme confidence and egged on by their fans, the World Cup-bound Filipinas more than held their own in dethroning the reigning Southeast Asian women’s football queens.
They were led by veteran defender Hali Long, who uncorked a beautiful header off another superb corner kick by skipper Tahnai Annis in the 31st minute that started the ball rolling, and the stadium rocking.
The do-it-all Annis added her own marker tally in the 50th, calmly converting a penalty kick, before letting striker Sarina Bolden finish off the demolition job with a brace, both headers in the 61st and 70th minutes, respectively.
In just one night, the Vietnamese, who had not conceded a goal in their four previous matches, gave up the most markers against an inspired Philippine squad.
But Stajcic won’t allow his players to rest on their laurels because “ultimately there’s the big one left,” referring to the rematch against Thailand, who tripped the Filipinas 1-0 last Tuesday in the group stage for their only setback in the competition.
“This win is just a stepping stone in setting a new milestone. We look forward to the final and taking revenge (against Thailand) after beating us earlier. I’m greedy and hungry for more,” disclosed the Australian tactician in a rare display of his own personal feelings.
This was why he urged Filipino fans anew to come over to the Rizal Memorial Stadium for one final time to cheer and spur the home team to victory.
“Certainly we are going to need that last bit of oxygen and energy. The more the Filipinas feel that love (by the fans), the better they will be able to perform,” he stressed.
Sharing his sentiments was Bolden, who emerged as the event’s top scorer with seven goals after her sterling attacking performance against Vietnam.
“As always we thank you (the fans) so much. We see the numbers growing and growing (in the crowd attendance),” Bolden said.
“We can’t wait for you to come out and support us for this finals match. Let’s see if we can make history and we’re going to give you guys a great performance,” she vowed.