Stajcic urges more hometown support as Filipinas battle Thais today

COACH Alen Stajcic implored hometown fans to pack the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Tuesday for the Filipinas’s all-important match against Thailand to wind up Group A action in the 12th Asean Football Federation Women’s Championship.

“As I’ve been saying all week. We want this place (Rizal Stadium) rocking. We want it full. The bigger the crowd and atmosphere, the bigger we have a chance of winning,” said Stajcic last Sunday night following  his squad’s impressive come-from-behind 4-1 win over Indonesia at the heritage-rich pitch.

“That is the point of having home ground advantage so I implore everyone to support the team, to support their nation and really help us get over the line,” he stressed.  

After picking up their fourth win in a row, the streaking hosts formally sealed a spot in the crossover semifinals while maintaining their lofty group standing with 12 points in the competition organized by the Philippine Football Federation.

But Stajcic acknowledged that it won’t be easy facing the four-time champion Thais, who were in second spot with 10 points after routing Malaysia, 4-0,  two days ago at the Binan Stadium in Laguna, in their 7 p.m. tussle.

Also at  7 p.m., Australia takes on Malaysia at the Imus Stadium in Cavite while also-rans Singapore and Indonesia tangle at the Binan Stadium in Laguna.

The Thai squad  is practically the same one the Filipinas tripped 1-0 in the group stage of the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup in India last February to advance to the semifinals,  achieving a historic milestone in booking their ticket to  the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2023.

The charges of Japanese coach Miya Okamoto gained a measure of revenge in knocking out the Filipinas 3-0 in the semifinals of the 31st Vietnam Southeast Asian Games women’s football tournament last May, although they managed to salvage a bronze medal from the event.

Likely back in harness for the match is top goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel, who will be coming off a week’s rest since minding the net in the 1-0 upset of Australia at the start of the tournament.       

Striker Sarina Bolden noted she fed off the energy of the hometown crowd in scoring her second hat trick for the country against the Indonesians so was expecting the same support from the Filipino gallery today.      

“Scoring a hat trick  at home for the national team is pretty special. I fed off the energy of the fans. I take great pride in it. But I couldn’t do it alone but because of the balls that were given to me,” noted Bolden, who raised her tally to 14 goals in 22 national team matches after Sunday’s spree.

With Bolden expected to be closely marked by the Thai defense, the Filipinas have enough firepower in the likes of skipper Tahnai Annis, Isabella Flanigan, Sara Eggesvik and Quinley Quezada, among others, in keeping their rivals on their toes.

“We’ve shown our depth in that we have had different scorers in the previous games. It doesn’t matter to me who scores the goals as long as we’re in a good position to score them,” Stajcic said.