The Philippine national football team will have to scale a mountain if it wants to see action in the Paris Olympics next year.
The Filipinas, whose are fresh from a historic stint in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, are in second place in Group A after suffering a 0-8 loss to Australia in the 2024 Asian Football Confederation Olympic Qualifying Tournament last Sunday at the Perth Stadium in Australia.
They have a 1-0-1 win-loss-draw record with a goal difference of -5, leaving them with no choice but to win by a large margin in their match against powerhouse Iran on Wednesday.
Only the top teams per group and the best second-place team in the second round will move to the third and final round in February 2024, where two spots for the 2024 Paris Summer Games are at stake.
Filipinas head coach Mark Torcaso said they will carry all the lessons they gained against the Australians into their crucial match against the Iranians.
“The learnings we’ll take from this match is that our players will have to be better prepared from that perspective. We only had a month or two to do stuff and get to know them. I only met four players three days ago,” he said.
“For me, the learning is to better prepare the girls in this kind of tournament but also how to set up an opposition perspective to make sure we limit the goals against a good team like Australia.”
“We want our players to challenge against the best and we want to also try not to be boring and create goal-scoring opportunities.”
Aside from battering the Iranians, the Filipinas also have to pay close attention to the campaigns of other countries vying for slots in the Summer Olympics.
Currently, North Korea, a team that is unranked in the latest International Football Association rankings, has the best record for a second-placed team as it has a 1-1-0 record in Group B following a masterful 2-0 win over China last Thursday and a 0-0 draw against South Korea three days later.
Eight-time Southeast Asian champion Vietnam, despite sharing the same record as the Philippines, has a better goal difference in the second round with +1 following a 0-1 loss to Uzbekistan and a 3-1 win over India in Group C.
With this, the Filipinas will have to score a lot of goals against Iran if they want to advance to the third and final round and keep their Olympics hopes alive.
But making it to the next round will not be easy.