The position coach Alen Stajcic and the Philippines are at in this upset-filled Fifa (International Association Football Federation) Women’s World Cup is something they are not only appreciating but one they would not like to waste.
“I’m really proud of the whole group that we’ve got at this point in the tournament,” Stajcic said as the Filipinas hope to defy the odds in their crunch Group A encounter with a Norway side that will miss one of its best players but is nonetheless determined to produce a result amid a turmoil-filled campaign.
“We’re still alive, no one thought we’d be alive [at this point],” Stajcic continued ahead of the 3 p.m. Manila time match at Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand. “We’re everyone’s underdog, again heading into our last match against a superpower of women’s football, historically and knowing that we have a chance to make it to the next round.”
A win over the champions of the 1995 edition, who are desperate to snatch a full three points, will extend this improbable run for another few days where the Filipinas could face either Spain or Japan in the round-of-16.
Otherwise — unless the Philippines can produce a draw coupled with a New Zealand loss to Switzerland — the run that has captured the imagination of Filipinos from every corner of the globe will draw to a close.
Switzerland leads the group with four points followed by New Zealand and the Philippines with three each, with the Kiwis ahead of the Filipinas on goal difference, while Norway is at the bottom with just a point to show.
If there’s anything that the Filipinas have done since the World Cup campaign started on July 21 is that the squad has prompted malls and other establishments to hold viewing parties for the potential historic match.
Welcome to the party
Not bad for a team that didn’t command much attention going here, as even television outfits shied away from acquiring the rights and airing the games until TV5 at the proverbial last minute.
“Welcome to the football party, welcome to the football family,” Stajcic said.
The team expressed confidence in getting the job done, even against a Norway side that has players seeing action for premier football clubs in Europe.
Norway is aware that the Philippines is a team that has impressed after games against Switzerland, which ended in a 2-0 defeat and the landmark 1-0 win over cohost New Zealand.
“I watched both games the Philippines has played in this tournament and I’m impressed by how they’re playing and obviously against New Zealand which they won,” said Norway’s Frida Maanum, who plays for Arsenal.
Despite the kind words, Maanum and coach Hege Riise are also focused on themselves, especially after striker Ada Hegerberg was ruled out due to an injury suffered even before Norway settled for a goalless draw with Switzerland.
Norway is OK
Riise said Hegerberg was deemed unfit for the match against the Filipinas, who despite still having the odds stacked against them, now have one less player to worry about.
Riise spent Saturday evening’s prematch press conference addressing the issue surrounding Caroline Graham Hansen’s comments about her role, which could either make or break the team going into the clash with the Filipinas.
Though she was quizzed a lot by the Norwegian media about the events that led to the public grievance aired by the Barcelona star, Riise insists that things are okay within their camp.
“We prepared well,” said Riise. “We know that things often may arise and you don’t know in advance what occurs. But we know the things that happened and we handled that thing that happened and I think we handled it well and that issue is behind us.
“We have a match [on Sunday], we all want to do much better than what we’ve done in the tournament,” she said.
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