As flattering as the recognition and attention garnered by the Filipinas in defeating the cohost for a landmark first win in the Fifa (International Association Football Federation) Women’s World Cup is, coach Alen Stajcic would rather want his players to stay grounded.
“At this point in time, we [will] reflect on what the world thinks of us later on,” Stajcic said Friday before Manila-based reporters who were allowed to attend the team’s training session at Olympic Park here.
The Filipinas are still on a high following Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over New Zealand’s Football Ferns in Wellington, prompting the worldwide media to tell flattering—or even unflattering—stories about the Philippine side’s unlikely rise that it is even contending on this stage.
Top news agencies like BBC even asked one Filipino reporter here to answer a few questions about the incredible result and its impact back home, where the two World Cup matches, including a valiant 2-0 defeat to Switzerland in Dunedin, have created huge interest.
A viral video of the celebration inside UP Town Center in Diliman, Quezon City, following Bolden’s goal and the final whistle obviously encouraged other shopping centers, bars or restaurants to hold viewing parties for Sunday’s match against Norway.
It’s a stunning turnaround compared to like six weeks ago, when the prospect of a local broadcaster seeking to secure the rights to show the Filipinas games were dim until Cignal TV came into the picture at the 11th hour.
Fifa-licensed Philippine merchandise have also been a difficult challenge to secure for those who are here for the games.But amid the highest point Philippine football has reached is the thought that there’s still something to play for in this World Cup that has produced a number of surprising results.
The Filipinas are now eyeing far more than what they had expected before arriving here for women’s football’s biggest showcase.
The Norway duel is set at Eden Park, with the Philippines needing a win to avoid complications, or a draw plus a New Zealand defeat to Switzerland to seal qualification to the first phase of the knockout stage against Spain or Japan.
“We’re making sure that we’re in a good mindset and block all that other stuff and issue. Whether it’s good noise or bad noise, we just don’t need that at the moment,” said Stajcic.
“In terms of the group, they are full of confidence, they have some belief and they’ve earned the right to feel like that, being in this position in terms of confidence also with points on the board.
“So we got to block that out and realize that we got a wonderful opportunity to further bolster the sport within the Philippines. I mean, it’s a moment and it’s an element only football can bring.”
Stajcic also prefers to focus on what the Filipinas can do instead of thinking of how the internal issues Norway has been experiencing can impact the crucial match.
“I think every team has their issues,” Stajcic said with Norway dealing with Ada Hegerberg’s injury and the aftermath of Caroline Graham Hansen’s public grievance over playing minutes.
“And because they’re maybe publicized, we knew that stuff is a little bit exaggerated,” Stajcic said.
“But they’re wounded animals as well. They would have taken a hit to their pride, they can come out fighting and they’re not [former] champions for no reason,” added Stajcic. INQ
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