PH hopes to extend hot start in 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) – The Philippine women's football team looks to continue its hot start in the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup group stage.

After their upset 1-0 win over Southeast Asian football giant Thailand last Jan. 21, the Filipinas are up for a tougher test as they face a mighty Australia squad on Monday at 6:00 p.m. (Philippine time). 

New Philippine team head coach Alen Stajcic emphasized the need for the squad to refocus their mindset in battling his compatriots, whom he coached from 2014 to 2019.

"It's obviously going to be an interesting game for me personally," Stajcic said. "My allegiance to where I was born and raised will get put to one side. I'm fully behind this Philippine team that I've spent the last three months with."

Stajcic highlighted the Filipina football players' special bond as a factor in their stunning victory against Thailand and in their outlook moving forward in the continental tournament.

"They're like a family unit in this playing group and they've really welcomed me with open arms. We're going to do everything we possibly can to give them the best chance of representing their country at the best level they can," said Stajcic, who was hired last October and spearheaded a two-month training camp in Irvine, California.

The Australian-born mentor hopes to replicate their great defensive performance in the Thailand game.

"A lot of things went right on the field. I thought our defensive effort was exceptional," Stajcic said in praising his players.

Philippine team debutant Katrina Giullou said the Thailand win boosted their confidence going to their match against the world no. 11 Australia, but expressed the next game will not be an easy one.

"We're just going to try and build off from where we were last night, so trying to possess the ball better. Supporting each other whether we were pressing, making runs, trying to get more people off the ball. That's something we're going to keep trying to improve on," said Guillou.

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The Filipinas will need to brace themselves against the Matildas, who massacred Indonesia,18-0, in their opening game.

Philippine team co-captain Hali Long said sacrifices are needed on their part to have a good showing against the Australians.

"We'll make all the sacrifices that we need to make, starting from our strikers all the way to the defense. We just have to try our very best to close them down," said Long. "We have nothing to lose and we have everything to prove about where our level is at."

The winner of the Philippines-Australia game on Monday will take the Group B solo spot and boost their chances to advance to the quarterfinals.