The Filipinas finally make their highly-anticipated debut in the FIFA Women’s World Cup today as they open their campaign in Group A against Switzerland at the Forsyth Barr Stadium under expected nippy weather in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Despite being the underdogs, the players of the Philippine team are expected to be in high spirits, hoping that their 18-month preparations would pay off against the La Nati in their 5 p.m. clash (1 p.m. Manila time) at the 30,000-capacity arena that was a site of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
The Filipinas arrived in the city, considered New Zealand’s wildlife capital, yesterday afternoon and were met by some Filipino expats at the Dunedin International Airport, the Philippine Embassy in New Zealand reported.
Currently ranked No. 46 in the FIFA women’s world rankings, Australian coach Alen Stajcic’s charges are not only facing a tough side 20 rungs above them but also will brace for the bone-chilling weather that has been averaging 7°C (44.6°F) in the past few days.
In preparation for the World Cup, the team trained and competed in US, Europe, Asia, and South America with the support of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Peaking at the right moment, they enter the fray having won five of their last matches, their recent loss a 1-5 setback to Sweden in a closed-door unofficial friendly here last Monday when Stajcic likely held his players under a tight leash given the proximity of their first match.
In their opening match today, they will face the Swiss team with German coach Inka Grings, who are making their second appearance in the World Cup.
The outcome of today’s match up could hinge on how the two skippers – Tahnai Annis for the Philippines and Switzerland’s Lia Waiti – can marshal their forces in controlling the midfield to set the tone of the match.
Veteran midfielder Waiti, 30, who plays for Arsenal Women’s Super League, keeps the Swiss engine running with her ball control while Paris St. Germain striker Ramona Bachmann “should be Grings’ most important player,” according to the special World Cup edition of the Total Football Analysis magazine.
“With the veteran star proving to be one of the most consistent players in the national team… her contribution in the final third is undeniable. The center-forward also plays an important role in possession, getting involved in creating chances for her teammates,” the report noted.
The magazine also singled out Annis as the pivotal player for the Filipinas.
“The name that immediately stands out is Annis, with her central to everything that they do well; this is highly reflected in the way that she has strengths in (defense, offense, and midfield),” the report said.
“It is clear that she (Annis) can provide most of what the Filipinas will be looking for in this tournament. She will be a prominent aspect of any hopes that they have of performing well in the World Cup.” | PR