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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Young Filipinas secure historic Asian Cup berth

Chalk up one more achievement for women’s football in the Philippines for 2023.

Already in the midst of a historic year, the Filipinas Under-17 squad produced another milestone by qualifying for the AFC Under-17 Women’s Asian Cup for the first time in history after a stunning 1-0 win over host Vietnam in Hanoi last Sunday night.

Isabella Preston struck a well-placed free kick from a tight angle in the 56th minute for the only goal of the match at the Vietnam Football Federation Training Center as the Young Filipinas, now handled by Australian coach Sinisha Cohadzic, advanced as the second team from their group after Australia.

The Young Filipinas needed to get past Guam and Lebanon in the first round of qualifying last April in Guam, before beating Bangladesh, 3-1, last Friday, setting the stage for a do-or-die game with Vietnam.

Members of the victorious Filipinas Under-17 squad celebrate their historic win.

Vietnam only needed a draw to qualify for the Asian Cup, but the Filipinas turned the tables on the hosts, constantly opening up their backline with pace and slick passing, while holding firm defensively as they denied them an equalizer late on.

The Filipinas, who were in training camp in Manila for a month, more than matched Vietnam’s technical abilities. With their drive and intensity, they controlled the game all throughout.

Striker Nina Mathelus, who scored twice against Australia and added another goal against Bangladesh last Friday, was a constant threat, while Sophia Saludares also tested the Vietnamese goalkeeper numerous times.

“We left it all out on the field today,” said team captain Ariana Markey. “We put everything on the line. We’re so excited to go to the Asian Cup.”

“We are proud of what the girls have achieved especially since it comes just a few months after the Filipinas also made history with a first-ever win in the FIFA Women’s World Cup,” said Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta.

“We are extremely grateful of the sacrifices of the players and their families as well as the people behind the scenes, particularly team manager Jeff Cheng, whose support has been instrumental to the rise of women’s football in the past few years.”

Also qualified for the eight-team Asian Cup from April 7 to 20 next year are hosts Indonesia, defending champions Japan, 2019 runners-up North Korea, 2019 third-placers China, Group A winner South Korea, Group A second-placer Thailand, and Group B winner Australia. The top three teams in the Asian Cup will qualify for the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in the Dominican Republic later in the year.

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