Philippine Women’s Under-20 National Team head coach Nahuel Arrarte believes growing the talent pool through development programs will help the country sustain its progress in international women’s football.
Speaking after the Filipinas U20 team’s second place finish in the group phase of AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualification in Vientiane, Laos, Arrarte said the competition “highlighted the importance of making sure that we continue to grow development programs in the Philippines to increase the talent pool.”
The team was only formed a few weeks ago and underwent camp for a week in Manila before flying to Laos a week before the first match.
Unseeded for the tournament, the Filipinas U20 also ended up in a tough group that included powerhouse China.
Still, they finished with four points and delivered encouraging performances particularly in the last two games.
The Filipinas U20 bowed to China, 0-6, before recording the country’s first win at this level in 11 years when they stunned the hosts, 1-0. The team battled Hong Kong to a 2-2 stalemate on the last day of the competition.
“It was a great experience for the players to see what’s required to compete at this level,” said Arrarte.
The Australian coach was proud at the way his players responded to the challenge that the competition brought.
“This group of players adapted and implemented a fighting spirit that sometimes takes years to achieve,” said Arrarte. “Within two weeks they competed and beat a team that has been together for several months and has a long history of good youth programs.”
Arrarte actually serves as an assistant to Philippine Women’s National Team coach Alen Stajcic, who will be leading the Filipinas to a historic FIFA Women’s World Cup appearance in New Zealand in July this year.
For the Under-20 setup, Arrarte brought along another assistant coach in the PWNT in Stevan Antonic, goalkeeper coach David Plowright and strength and conditioning coach Red Sajonia. PWNT assistant team manager Kevin Padre was also part of the delegation to Laos.
Philippine-based coaches Prescila Rubio, Antonio Albao and Marlon Piñero were also part of the coaching group, giving them an opportunity to see the structure and methods applied with the PWNT program.
“Having members of senior coaching staff like Stevan, Dave, Red, Kevin made the transition easy as we implemented a lot of the processes done with the senior women’s team,” said Arrarte. “It gave the staff an opportunity to get a further insight of what is done at international level in regards to what goes into the process of planning, preparing, analysis, technical and tactical work. Hopefully, they take the learnings back to their clubs and players to further assist the game back in the Philippines.”
Arrarte had nothing but praise for his players, whom he said committed themselves from Day 1 with the upmost level of respect and integrity.
“The loss (to China) made the team stronger,” Arrarte said. “The mentality shown when we lost Kaiya (Jota) seven minutes into the game against Laos and to be able to win and want to score more was outstanding. And again to come back against Hong Kong and pushing for the win with one less player shows the character of the group. The girls really took on board and lived the words Laban and Para Sa Bayan.”
Looking ahead, Arrarte shares Stajcic’s recommendation of expanding the player pool for the continued growth of the national teams.
“We don’t want to just compete in tournaments, we want to get to a point where we are winning tournaments, we want to beat higher ranked nations and make youth World Cups,” said Arrarte. With adequate time, a collective approach and support we truly believe it can be achieved.”