The brave Filipinas, having left their hearts on the pitch, return home from the 19th Asian Games with their heads held high, despite bowing out in women’s soccer. Their hopes were dashed by a formidable Japanese team, who secured an 8-1 victory at the Wenzhou Sports Centre.
Facing the reigning champions, ranked No. 8 in the world, the Filipinas approached the match with determination, even though they were down to 17 players due to prior setbacks. This resilient squad had much to be proud of, considering their remarkable journey in this prestigious competition.
Their path to the Last 8 included a victory over Hong Kong, a valiant effort against 2018 bronze medalist South Korea, and another triumphant performance against Myanmar. This marked the first time in 65 years that a Philippine football team had reached this far in the Asian Games.
Team manager Jeff Cheng reflected on the challenges they faced in Hangzhou, emphasizing the adjustments required for a tournament with a unique setup and a new coaching dynamic.
“It was a tough tournament. A lot of new things to deal with and adjust to. A new tournament with a different setup. New coaches for us, a new team for our coaches,” he said. “What we were ready for, we gave our best. Anywhere we could have done better, we acknowledge, analyze, and improve for the next time,” Cheng added.
Mariano Araneta, leading the Philippine Football Federation, celebrated this milestone, coming just two months after the historic debut in the FIFA World Cup. He expressed confidence in the continued growth of the team.
Under the guidance of new coach Mark Torcaso, the Filipinas, led by Sarina Bolden, demonstrated great promise, adapting to a fresh system.
“I give credit to the players. And regardless of the final score or how we got there, in every match, they leave no room for anyone to doubt their will to give their best for the team and for the country,” said Cheng.
Bolden’s remarkable header in the 68th minute, courtesy of a corner from Sara Eggesvik, was a testament to the team’s unwavering spirit. This goal marked a significant achievement, as it was the first conceded by Japan in the tournament.
Despite the formidable challenge and the departure of five key starters to their respective clubs before the match against Japan, the Filipinas’ journey at the Asian Games was a testament to their tenacity, skill, and undying love for the sport. They return home as warriors, their heads held high, with the pride of a nation behind them.