The Philippine national women’s football team will field what could be its best lineup in years for the ASEAN Football Federation Women’s Championship this week, and the Malditas attack would be anchored on one player: Filipino-American striker Heather Cooke.
Coach Ernie Nierras said the 5-foot-9 Cooke, who was converted from a central defender into a forward, gives the team the edge it has been looking for.
“If you watch how they play, this is not the type of team that will throw the ball long,” Nierras said. “This is the type of team that will keep possession on the ball and then we’ll find our big girl.
“As soon as Heather faces the goal, we’ll give it to her.”
Cooke, who joined the team last year after playing varsity football at US NCAA school Loyola University Maryland, sees no problem playing her new position.
“It actually that wasn’t hard because I played offense when growing up,” said Cooke, whose mother traces her roots to Iloilo. “I’m hungry for the ball. It’s fun. I like it.”
The brunette beauty, who moonlighted as a cast member of MTV’s Real World Las Vegas, said that she welcomes her new attacking role because it would bring more attention to her — on the football pitch.
“A lot of people don’t really see what the defense brings,” Cooke said. “Now I’m gonna be in the position where I can make a more noticeable effect.
“It will be a lot of fun and I’m happy to play as a striker.”
The Malditas will start their campaign for in this year’s AFF championship on Thursday against last year’s finalist Myanmar. They will face 2010 champion and host Vietnam on Friday and Singapore on September 17 in their Group A matches.
They need to finish in the top two of the group to move on to the crossover semifinals, where they will meet the best two teams from Group B that features defending champion Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia.
In the past four editions of the tournament, the Malditas failed to advance past the group stages of the competition.
Nierras earlier said he expects the team powered by Cooke to crash the finals. “If we don’t make it to the finals, we will be disappointed,” he said.
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