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Filipinas facing mission impossible

‘Our players will fight until the end.’

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF PFF HALI Long (No. 5) and the entire Filipinas crew are not new to beating the odds, but they will need a miracle to keep their Olympic hopes alive.

The Philippine national women’s football team is in a must-win situation against Iran today in the 2024 Asian Football Confederation Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Perth Rectangular Stadium in Australia.

Kickoff is at 3:50 p.m. as the Filipinas go all-out in their final game of the second round of the qualifiers in hopes of advancing to the third and final round in February 2024.

The Filipinas need to over the Iranians by at least eight goals to nail the top spot in their group.

Only the top teams of each group and the best second-placed team will move on to the next round where two tickets to the Paris Summer Games are on the line.

Currently, the Philippines sits in second place in Group A with a 1-0-1 win-draw-loss record with a -5 goal difference.

But North Korea, a team that is unranked in the latest International Football Association rankings, has the best record for a second-placed team right now as it has a 1-1-0 record in Group B.

Eight-time Southeast Asian Games champion Vietnam, despite sharing the same record as the Philippines, has a better goal difference in the second round with +1 at Group C.

Uzbekistan, which is at No. 73 in the FIFA rankings, also has a good chance of being the best second-placed team in the tournament if it scores a huge margin against lowly India in Group C.

The Uzbeks have the same record as the Filipinas and the Vietnamese but with a -1 goal difference.

That could all change as they have forward Diyorakhon Khabibullaeva, the leading goalscorer in the tournament, in their ranks.

With the Philippines coming off a sorry 0-8 loss to Australia last Sunday, Filipinas head coach Mark Torcaso said they will have to make the most of the lessons they learned in that match when they face the Iranians and win by at least seven to eight goals.

“We’re going to approach that game differently and we’re going to make sure we’ll give ourselves the chance to qualify,” Torcaso said.

“Our players will fight until the end. Our goal is to get six points in this tournament and anything after that is a bonus. If we get the three points against Iran and we qualify, that’s even better.”

Forwards Sarina Bolden, Katrina Guillou and Chandler McDaiel are expected to lead the Filipinas once more along with midfielders Jaclyn Sawiki and team captain Tahnai Annis, defenders Hali Long and Reina Bonta and goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel.

Defenders Behnaz Taherkhani, Fatemeh Amineh, Shabnam Behesht and Hadis Basatshir have been solid at the back for the Iranians with goalkeeper Zahra Khajavi being an impenetrable wall for the Iranian Lionesses, only conceding two goals in their campaign in the Olympic qualifier.


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