Filipinas bag maiden AFF crown, outlast Asian powerhouse Thailand, 3-0.

The Philippine Women’s National Football Team won their first ever title after emerging victorious over Thailand, 3-0, in the 2022 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Women’s Championship Finals at the Rizal Memorial Stadium earlier tonight, July 17.

Jessika Cowart, Katrina Guillou, and Sarina Bolden each scored a goal in the Philippines’ momentous effort. Bolden capped her all-around performance by finishing as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals in seven matches. 

Striking early

Both the Philippines and Thailand were physical from the get-go as cheers roared in from the home crowd. It was not long into the match until Cowart drew first blood for the gutsy home team by blasting a header from Tahnai Annis’ corner kick in the seventh minute to break the deadlock, 1-0.

Despite gaining an early advantage, the Filipinas continued to look for options in the box, relentlessly challenging the physical Thai defense. After being under constant pressure, Chaba Kaew faltered, leaving just enough space for Guillou to sneak in a shot into the near post, increasing the Filipinas’ lead to 2-0.

After falling into an early deficit, the Thai team slowly eased themselves into the flow of the game, controlling more possession of the ball as the first half progressed. Nevertheless, the Philippine defense—anchored by goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel—remained formidable to deny their opponents any chances of a goal. The Philippines, led by Bolden, continuously found opportunities to strike on the counterattack but failed to capitalize on their chances as the first half came to a close. 

The Filipinas looked to end the half strong after earning another corner kick in added time. However, they missed out on another goal as Quezada’s header narrowly hit the crossbar. Regardless, the Philippines entered halftime with a 2-0 lead over four-time AFF champions Thailand.

Closing in on history

After a thrilling performance from the hosts, Thailand came out of the break rejuvenated, dominating possession in the early minutes of the second half. However, the Philippine backline stayed unyielding, creating their first chance of the period from a counterattack in the 50th minute. Unfortunately, Quezada’s attempt overshot the crossbar.

To create a rhythm offensively, Thailand patiently played short passes and finally created their first real chance of a goal after building an attack from the back—powering a low cross that was thwarted by McDaniel before it found the striker.

Tensions started to flare when Eva Madarang was pushed by Ploychompoo Somnuek on her way out of the pitch to be substituted by Malea Cesar. The Thai defender was subsequently given a yellow card for the infringement.

The Filipinas nearly increased their advantage in the 60th minute when Quezada drove the ball past the Thai defenders toward the right side of the goal, but narrowly missed off the right post. Both teams started to get consistent chances to attack midway through the period and traded free kicks in the 62nd and 66th minutes.

Thailand continued to create chances through their wingers, but could not find clinical finishes on McDaniel’s goal as the match started to reach its final minutes. The Filipinas finally closed the door on their adversary’s hopes via a bullet header from Bolden off Sara Eggesvik’s corner in the 89th minute, winning the Final with a 3-0 margin. This allowed the Filipinas to claim the country’s maiden championship in the ASEAN football tournament, cementing the ballgame’s place in the hearts of the Filipino sports community.

Head coach Alen Stajcic had high praise for his team’s grit and determination, “It’s miraculous what [they] have done in the last two weeks, let alone in the last four…The team just keeps getting better and better. To be able to play like that after seven games…I can’t describe how resilient and mentally tough they are.”

After more than 8,000 people filled in the stadium tonight, the Australian tactician is also grateful for the supporters who went to support him and his team, “It’s amazing to see the fans come out and lift Philippine football and bring it to life. It’s just truly spectacular.”

Woman of the Match Guillou had similar sentiments as she discussed the performance of the squad, “We were just feeding off of that energy [from the crowd]. We had a great first half, and we knew that going into the second half, we couldn’t let up. And it was crucial to get that third goal right at the end.”

While this achievement is certainly one for the books, Stajic notes that the Filipinas are just getting started, “We’ve conquered a big hill in Southeast Asia and showed that we could be champions, but there are some mountains that lay ahead.”

He notes that the team still has their biggest competition to date still to come, “We’ve got some big challenges lying ahead, to conquer the rest of Asia and the World Cup next year. This is an unbelievable achievement, but I’ve always got one eye on the future knowing how much more we have to work hard to keep growing this game and [to] keep achieving success.”

By Diego Manzano

By Aren Reyes

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