Filipinas secure second-round stint

The Philippine women’s national football under-17 team booked a ticket to the second round of the AFC U-17 Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers after sweeping its matches in Group G at the Guam Football Association National Training Center in Dededo, Guam.

After their 2-0 win over Lebanon last Wednesday, Filipinas U-17 team captain Ariana Markey said they didn’t leave anything to chance in the first round and studied their opponents thoroughly.

“Overall, it was really rewarding. It was a tough game and all these girls, including me, are training and analyzing film for the past week or so,” Markey said.

“We just put our bodies out there to appreciate this win. It just means a lot to us.”

The Filipinas opened their campaign in the first round with a 3-1 over the host team last 23 April thanks to a hattrick from Nina Mathelus, who played her first game for the national team.

Against the Lebanese, the Alen Stajcic-mentored squad stepped up in the second half after Bella Alamo scored a goal in the 68th minute before Mathelus made it 2-0 for the Filipinas after converting a penalty kick.

Mathelus scored four goals in the Filipinas’ two games and is tied with South Korea’s Won Jueun, Tiana Fuller of New Zealand and Thailand’s Rinyaphat Moondong and Sasi Lekphetr as the tournament’s top goalscorers.

While goalie Clara Estiandan was able to keep a clean sheet for the Filipinas on her debut for the squad, she deflected the credit to her teammates for their win.

“My thoughts on the clean sheet is that it wasn’t just me who kept it clean for the team but also my teammates who have my back,” Estiandan said.

“For my first national game, it was great. It was a like a roller coaster, full of ups and downs but we got the win in the end.

As of writing, the Philippines and Vietnam are the only squads to advance to the second round so far.

Should the Filipinas make it within the top two of the group they are assigned to, they will play in the 2024 AFC U-17 Women’s Asian Cup in Indonesia from 7 to 20 April.

Apart from the host team Indonesia, 2019 champion Japan, silver medalist China and third-place team North Korea are already waiting after securing podium finishes in the previous edition of the tournament.

The 2024 AFC U-17 Women’s Asian Cup returns after a five-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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