National women’s football team coach Alen Stajcic is concentrating on the task at hand as he faces his home country Australia in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Monday, Jan. 24 in Mumbai, India.
There’s an air of anticipation around the Group B match at the Mumbai Football Arena with Stajcic facing the squad he steered to quarterfinal berths in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2016 Rio Olympics.
Though he acknowledges the subplot, Stajcic would rather focus on trying to steer the Pinay booters to a good performance against the Matildas, considered as one of the best nations in women’s football.
“It’s obviously an interesting game for me, personally,” said Stajcic, who coached Australia from 2014 to 2019 before being sacked in a controversial manner by the Football Federation of Australia.
“But as a coach, my allegiance to where I was born and raised is put to one side. I’m fully behind this team where I spent the last three months,” he continued.
Stajcic was hired to handle the Philippines’ bid for a historic World Cup berth last October, and his imprint was immediately seen when it produced a breakthrough 1-0 win over Thailand to open the Asian Cup.
The 48-year-old is glad with how the team has responded to his methods, as evident with how the players spoke highly of the lengthy training camp held in Irvine, California.
He and the Philippines are huge underdogs against Australia, which opened the tournament with an 18-0 demolition of Indonesia.
Sam Kerr, who plays for English club Chelsea and one of Stajcic’s former players, scored five to set a record for most goals by a male or female Australian in international football.
Australian media reported that facing Stajcic is the least of concerns for the Matildas as they aim to tighten their grip on top spot in the group.
“Regardless of the coaching staff, we are going to treat it like just another game,” said midfielder Clare Wheeler as quoted by The Sydney Morning Herald.
“We want to win the tournament so we are definitely attacking the Philippines game with the same attitude to get the result we need.”