After the draw for the AFF Women’s Championship was made, the goal for the Philippines was to avoid Vietnam. Perhaps, it should have been the other way around, Vietnam should have avoided us.
In a game that set the bar for a Philippine team–men’s or women’s, boy’s or girls–the Filipinas dominated Vietnam, 4-0, to advance to the final of the AFF women’s Championship for the first time, another first in a year of firsts for the Malditas. In January, they made the Fifa Women’s World Cup for the first time and in May, they won a Southeast Asian Games medal for the first time.
Make no mistake, this was no Hanoi Miracle Part 2, where a defensive minded Azkals who had 11 men behind the ball scored on a rare counter-attack to stun Vietnam.
“It’s a complete performance, it’s probably the best performance the Philippine women’s team ever had in international football,” coach Alen Stajcic told Cedelf Tupas in the post-match interview.
He’s wrong. This, this was something else. This was the Ultras making sure that anyone who joined them in the bleachers would be joining their chants and dances. This was the Pinoys abroad working behind the scenes to get a drum corps in the stand, this was people behind the scene making sure their will be bodies in the stands, to give the Filipinas the best home game experience possible.
And they returned the favor. They gave every fan the best home game experience, ever. No, this is no Hanoi Miracle, from the whistle, the Filipinas were the Malditas, their attitude and mindset made obvious for everyone, “So you’re the top team in Group B, eh. Let’s see how good you are.”
After a few offensive plays cut short with a player being a step too slow, Hali Long gave the Philippines the lead after heading in Tahnai Annis’ perfectly-delivered corner. It was her first goal of the tournament and the first goal conceded by Vietnam.
It wouldn’t be the first.
The goal emboldened the Philippines and Sarina Bolden had a hat-trick of misses in the next 10 minutes, a lob was barely wide, a left-footer was off target, a shot inside the goal was blocked by a defender.
Vietnam got a respite at the break, but after half-time the Filipinas were still at it. Bolden weaved through three defenders to deliver a perfect cross, but Bella Flannigan bungled a goal-mouth shot.
The commentators blamed it on nerves and said Flannigan would have made the goal 9 out of 10 times. They seemed to have jinxed her as she missed again from inside the six-yard box nine minutes later.
But three minutes after Flannigan’s first miss, there was no denying the Filipinas’ their second goal. Annis earned a penalty and calmly converted it, 2-0.
Eleven minutes later, it was Bolden’s turn to do a double-duty. After earning a corner, a glancing header got the hosts up, 3-0, answering the crowd’s clamor for “Isa pa!”
They’re the best team in Southeast Asia, just because we beat them once doesn’t mean that they’re not, we’ve only beaten them once but they’ve beaten us many times…But our night is tonight, we deserve the win but we could have won by more.Alen Stajcic on the Philippines 4-0 win against Vietnam, the country’s first against Southeast Asia’s top women’s side.
It was the Filipinas’ night and Stajcic’s himself. The coach couldn’t make a wrong move. He made a double sub, putting in Quinley Quezada for Annis and Carleigh Frilles for Flannigan and the move paid dividends just minutes later.
Frilles tried from distance but hit the bar and Quezada got the ball, and connected with Bolden, who didn’t make any mistake heading in from the goal mouth, 4-0.
By this time, Vietnam had a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. They simply didn’t know how to react. Though they got a couple of shots and crosses in, Olivia McDaniel got them all.
And even 4-0 up, the Filipinas still kept on pressing and didn’t resort to delaying tactics.
But, as Stajcic said, history-making this win maybe, it’s ultimately just the semifinals. There’s one more.
And that one is against Thailand on Sunday for the AFF Women’s Championship title.