Despite lackluster performances in the previous years, the Philippine national women’s football team is setting its sights on an ambitious goal in the 2012 ASEAN Football Federation Women’s Championship this September in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
“We want to make it to the finals,” Malditas coach Ernie Nierras said. “If we don’t make it to the finals, we will be disappointed.”
Nierras made the pronouncement despite the Malditas’ failure to get past the group stages in the past four editions of the tournament. However, he believes that this year’s lineup is the most formidable the country has ever had.
“The team that I have now, this is the strongest I’ve ever seen in the women’s national team,” Nierras said.
The Malditas will be led by team captain Marielle Benitez, a many-time UAAP Most Valuable Player from La Salle. The team also boasts a number of Fil-foreigners such as Fil-Americans Heather Cooke, Ashley O’Connor, Abby Komarc, Angeline and Patrice Impelido, Fil-Australian Nenita Burgess and Fil-Canadian Mallory Dayot.
The team will also be bolstered by players from the UAAP schools, such as Louella Amamio, Jowee-Ann Barruga, Aisa Mondero and Marice Magdolot from University of Santo Tomas; Inna Palacios, Samantha Nierras and Natasha Alquiros from La Salle; Isabella Fernando and Kathleen Rodriguez from Ateneo; Etang Ladero and Vanessa Mondero from Far Eastern University; and Cristina Delos Reyes from University of the Philippines.
Nierras added that he is confident about their chances this year as they had better preparation this year.
“We’ve been training for eight months. Unlike last year na medyo hirap tayo, we are able to address all the needs this time,” Nierras said. “This is the only time that we played 30 games to prepare (for the tournament).”
The Malditas will battle Myanmar, last year’s finalist, on September 13, host Vietnam, also the 2010 champion, on September 14, and Singapore on September 17 to complete their matches in Group A.
The Filipinas need to finish in the top two of their group to advance to the crossover semifinals and face the two best teams in Group B that features defending champion Thailand, Laos, Indonesia and Malaysia.
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