Philippines head coach Alen Stajcic expressed optimism on the eve of their big game.
The Philippines are looking to qualify for their first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup, while Chinese Taipei are aiming to end their 31-year absence from the tournament with the winners of Sunday’s match confirming their spot in next year’s global showpiece.
On paper, Chinese Taipei have the advantage of having played one match less in the group stage but Stajcic wasn’t concerned.
“You could look at that two ways, and say that we’re got a little bit more fatigue, but on the flipside of that argument, we’re also a lot more match hardened after playing three tough matches to get to this point,” said Stajcic.
“They’ve made it to this level of the competition so they’ve shown enough. Against China (PR), they played a defensive game and tried to stay compact, and were successful for long periods, and against (Islamic Republic of) Iran, they showed the other part of their game.
“Very similar to us, where we had different games against Australia and Indonesia. For me, it’s an extremely tight contest, a 50-50 match, and worthy of a quarter-final of the Asian Cup.”
The Philippines defence will be tested at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, as Chinese Taipei looked very dangerous in their final Group A match against Iran.
Stajcic understands the threat Chinese Taipei pose, but he is convinced the Malditas can rise up to the occasion to create history and inspire a nation.
“It’s not just the backline or the goalkeeper, the defence is every player on the field that starts from the front. Whilst I agree that the backline has done a really good job – particularly against Australia, ultimately defending is not a four or five-person game, it’s an 11-person game.
“Every single person has to contribute, and we’ve seen a great team dynamic in that perspective, which has allowed us to be successful in that part of the game.
“I don’t have to kick the ball so I don’t feel any pressure. It’s going to be another fantastic occasion and a wonderful opportunity for our country to influence the next generation.
“The football fans back in the Philippines want to see their team succeed and reach the World Cup. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime and first time potentially for it to happen.
“To grow the game around the world, these opportunities have to happen to more and more countries, and this time it’s our turn. We are trying to reach the pinnacle of our sport.”
The two teams last met in the second round of the Olympic Qualifiers in 2019, where Chinese Taipei head coach Echigo Kazuo led the team to a 4-2 win.
“The last game was two years ago,” said Kazuo. “Our team is new, and the Philippines also have new members.
“I’m so excited for the match tomorrow because it will be our key to the World Cup, so we are going to do our best.
“When the Philippines have possession, they will quickly transition into attack, and I think that’s one of their strengths but we will have our plans in place.”