Philippines’ coach Alen Stajcic hailed qualification for next year’s Women’s World Cup as a “once-in-a-lifetime” achievement that can inspire a new generation of players.
The Philippines defeated Taiwan in a penalty shootout in Pune, India, on Sunday to secure a semi-final berth at the Women’s Asian Cup and, in addition, a place at the World Cup finals in Australia and New Zealand next June.
That marks the Philippines’ first-ever qualification for a major global soccer finals in either the men’s or women’s game and Stajcic, who was appointed in November, believes it can have a positive impact on children throughout the archipelago.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement by the group, it’s a moment in history for the country and no one can ever take that away from the group, it’s a new bar that’s been set,” said the Australian.
“Now every young kid, girl and boy, back in the Philippines knows they can be inspired and get to the World Cup themselves.
“I know the group is really proud of each other but I know they’re even more proud that they’ve inspired the next generation.”
Hailing from a country where basketball is the dominant sport, a squad drawn largely from the Filipino diaspora in the United States went into the tournament ranked as outsiders.
The Malditas were handed a challenging drawn in the group phase, which saw them pitted against Australia, who finished as Asian Cup runners-up in 2014 and 2018, as well 2019 World Cup qualifiers Thailand.
However, they emerged from their group second behind the Australians before defeating three-time Asian champions Taiwan to secure the World Cup berth and also set up an Asian Cup semi-final with South Korea in Pune on Thursday.
“I’m not even worried about the semi-final at the moment,” said Stajcic.
“I usually wouldn’t say that, but we’ve just qualified for the World Cup and we’re going to enjoy that.
“It’s a remarkable achievement, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime, one that’s never been done before. So you just really have to soak up these moments.” —Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, Editing by Robert Birsel