Members of the Philippine Malditas national women’s football team did not practice together before they went to Tashkent, Uzbekistan to play in the Group E qualifiers of the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup India 2022.
There were squad members, who did virtual training in Manila because of government restrictions while the National Capital Region was in lockdown and in different stages of quarantine restrictions in the past months.
The other half of the team was in Great Park Irvine in Irvine, California in the United States, where tryouts and outdoor practices were held since facilities are already open.
This time around, head coach Marlon Maro is planning to get everyone together in the US to train as a team for their coming competition this January in India.
“If we prepare in the Philippines, nothing will happen because of the government restrictions. So, I’m planning to ask the Philippine Football Federation to let us do another camp in California,” said Maro.
He said this after the Malditas repulsed Hong Kong, 2-1, in Tashkent on Friday to claim the top spot in Group F and become one of the 12 teams which will be in the India 2022 event.
The Malditas will also have a chance of making qualification for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023.
The host country and the top three teams of the previous tournaments in 2018 are automatically qualified.
But the entry of the other eight teams will be decided during the Asian tournament.
While in California, the Malditas will have a chance to have a lot of friendlies and practices in different venues.
In their game last Friday, newcomer Chandler Blue McDaniel broke past the defense and sneaked in the winning goal in the 87th minute.
The 23-year-old Filipino-American forward from Norco, California found a scoring opportunity when she slipped past her defenders and gave the Malditas a two-game sweep in their bracket.
The Malditas, who won over Nepal, 2-1, in the opener, took the lead early when Tahnnai Annis headed in a cross from Rochelle Mendano, with her attempt sailing past goalkeeper Ng Cheuk Wai in the 17th minute.
In the second half, Hong Kong captain Chung Pui Ki equalized with a 61st minute free kick, which went to the top corner past skipper and goalie Inna Palacios and into the net from 20 meters.
Already qualified are host India, Japan, Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Thailand.
The qualified teams in Groups A, B, C and D are still to be decided.
PFF president Mariano “Nonong” Araneta commended the Malditas for their feat.
“We are truly delighted by this remarkable achievement by our Philippine Women’s National Team. Qualification to the AFC Women’s Asian Cup is a testament to the hard work and sacrifice made by the players and the coaching staff and the support of sponsors and stakeholders,” said Araneta.