Alen Stajcic: 'Effort was outstanding' against fancied Aussie side

Published January 24, 2022, 11:17 PM

by Jonas Terrado

Photo from AFC

National women’s football coach Alen Stajcic couldn’t ask more from his team after an impressive showing despite falling 4-0 to Australia in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.

An organized defense enabled the Philippines to keep the match scoreless in the first half and minutes into the restart against an Aussie side that boasts of immense talent and experience of playing in some of the world’s biggest competitions.

But the Matildas eventually displayed their class, with Sam Kerr’s opener in the 51st minute setting the stage for them to avoid a result — a loss or even a draw — that would have sent shockwaves Down Under.

Stajcic, who was facing the team he handled a few years ago, praised the Pinay booters for making a strong impression that epitomized the progress they’ve made since he was hired last October.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of the way they fought and battled,” Stajcic said in the post-match press conference. “The effort was outstanding against a truly world-class team.

“For our players to step up to that level, and be able to hold them out for 50 minutes just shows the resilience the team showed, the fight, the effort. It makes us really proud that we could match that for so long and keep them at bay,” added Stajcic.

What made the performance was the number of challenges and strategies the team had to face in the lead-up to the match.

Stajcic made changes to the lineup, with goalkeeper Kiara Fontanilla and returning striker Sarina Bolden among those tasked to start the contest while sending Katrina Guillou, Tahnai Annis and Olivia McDaniel on the bench.

Quinley Quezada was not with the team during the match, possibly due to a small COVID-19 situation that hit the Philippine contingent even before its 1-0 win over Thailand last Friday.

Stajcic also admitted that he also had in mind the crucial last group stage match against Indonesia on Thursday, which is a potential quarterfinal clincher for the Philippines.

“A little bit of both,” Stajcic said when asked of his selection, “but we did have some injuries to key players and some COVID issues as well.

“So we weren’t at full strength (against Australia), which sort of shows even more how impressive this performance really was.”