Alen Stajcic’s Philippines will clinch their place in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup India 2022 quarter-finals by defeating Indonesia in their final Group B clash at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Thursday. With Australia having consolidated their place at the top of the standings, the Philippines are second on three points – ahead of Thailand on the head to head criteria, while Indonesia have yet to register a point.
The Philippines opened their AFC Women’s Asian Cup campaign with an impressive 1-0 victory over Southeast Asian rivals Thailand on Matchday One. Against Australia, the Philippines held their own for 45 minutes before conceding four goals – a performance which earned praises from Stajcic.
The grit shown against Australia is what Stajcic expects from his players when they take on Indonesia and the Australian tactician believes his players are inspired to succeed.
“We did have some injuries (against Australia). Our first two keepers were both injured, Kristina Guillou, we could only bring on for a little bit at the end. She had a little niggle and couldn’t get through the whole game.
“They’re a couple of key players and we also have some COVID issues as well. We weren’t at full strength, which shows how impressive the performance was.
“The players in the squad want to change the game back home. They want to be inspirational to the next generation and they’ve spoken about that often.”
“They’re at the forefront now, and they’re on the precipice of being able to do that (qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup) but there’s a lot of hard work to be done between now and qualifying.
“Hopefully we can give the Philippines and all the players back home – young boys and young girls – some inspiration and hope that they can play at FIFA World Cups in the future.”
Indonesia, playing in the tournament after a 33-year absence, were dealt a steep learning curve in their 18-0 defeat to Australia on Matchday One with Rudy Eka Priyambada’s side then suffering a 4-0 loss to Thailand.
Given Indonesia’s inexperience, Priyambada believes there is room to grow for his developing squad especially with a number of them below the age of 23.
“We have learned a lot in these past two games, the defeat against Australia and Thailand has pointed out weaknesses and areas of improvement in our game,” said Priyambada. “The players were not comfortable on the ball and it showed. We need more match experience.
“We have a few players from the U18s and U23s who are getting really great exposure from this tournament. I believe this is a positive step towards building a solid Indonesian team for the future.”
“Most of the Philippines players have the experience of playing in the United States and I hope my players can compete against them. We just came back into this competition after a 33-year absence and we didn’t have many international friendlies.
“So the experience of playing in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup is very important for them and I will give the chance for the other players to play against the Philippines.”
AUSTRALIA vs THAILAND
Australia’s place in the quarter-finals is secured, but head coach Tony Gustavsson warned against expecting a drop in their standards during Thursday’s final Group B clash against Thailand.
That the Matildas will be one of the eight teams to advance is certain, but they require at least a point against Chaba Kaew to be sure of advancing as group winners, while the Thais’ more complicated knockout stage equation will also be resolved at Mumbai Football Arena.
Gustavsson’s side have taken no prisoners since touching down in Mumbai, piling on 22 unanswered goals in wins over Indonesia and the Philippines, and living up to their billing as title contenders.
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosts have fielded exceptionally strong starting line-ups in their group stage matches, with stars like Sam Kerr, Ellie Carpenter and Steph Catley all starting on both occasions.
Gustavsson hinted at possible changes for his side’s third and final match in Mumbai but declared there would be no letup in terms of how they approach the match itself.
“We’re going to treat that game the same way we’ve done with these two,” he revealed. “Meaning, we have two main targets for the group stage.
“One was to win the group, and two was to get out of the group with as many players as possible available and peaking physically and mentally going into the playoffs.”
“Now we have secured a spot in the playoffs. We have almost secured the first spot (in the group). A tie in the last game would secure that. We’re going to do that in a way that makes sure we have as many players as possible available for the quarter-final, but also peaking.
“We take this tournament really seriously and every game matters. I think everybody has seen that now with the two line-ups and what we’ve done in the first two games.”
Australia’s path to winning the group – and booking a quarter-final date with either Japan or Korea Republic – is clear, but Thailand’s position in the race for the knockout stage is far more complicated.
The Thais are level with the Philippines on points after a Kanyana Chatthabutr-inspired 4-0 win over Indonesia on Monday, but the loss they suffered to Alen Stajcic’s side on Matchday One means they still sit third in the group standings.
To finish second, and book a direct place in the last eight, Thailand will certainly need to avoid defeat against Australia, but they are also likely to require a favour from Indonesia against the Philippines while a third-placed finish would also give them a chance of progressing, provided they don’t lose heavily against the in-form Australians.
Head coach Miyo Okamoto is aware that Thailand can only control their own game on Thursday, and the Japanese boss said her side will chase all three points.
“As we’ve always prepared for a match to win, we will do the same for the Australia game as well,” she said. “We suspect we won’t have that many chances against Australia, but we need to up the quality in the chances we might encounter against them.”
Australia cruised to a 6-0 win the last time the two sides met, during Tokyo Olympics qualifying, but their most recent AFC Women’s Asian Cup meeting was far closer, with the Matildas advancing on penalties after a thrilling 2-2 semi-final draw in Amman in 2018.
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