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'They fought to the end': Philippines coach filled with pride after Women's World Cup run ends

By Agence France-Presse Published Jul 31, 2023 9:33 am

Philippines coach Alen Stajcic said he could not have asked any more of his team despite a 6-0 hammering by Norway on Sunday, July 30 which ended their Women's World Cup adventure.

"They are a classy team and they picked us apart. We tried hard all the way to the end and I am proud of the heart and spirit of our team," said Stajcic after the game at Eden Park in Auckland.

"They fought to the end. From that perspective, it has been an amazing World Cup. The players have punched so far above their weight."

Philippines players stand for their national anthem before the start of the game.

The Philippines came into their final game in Group A fresh from a stunning victory over co-hosts New Zealand, their first-ever World Cup win on their debut appearance at the tournament.

Another win against the former champions would have taken them through to the last 16 but they never recovered after Sophie Roman Haug scored two early goals for the Norwegians.

A Caroline Graham Hansen strike made it 3-0 at half-time, and an Alicia Barker own goal coupled with a Guro Reiten penalty meant it was 5-0 early in the second half.

The Philippines had substitute Sofia Harrison sent off before Roman Haug completed her hat-trick, and the rout, in stoppage time.

Despite the outcome, the Philippines players still took the acclaim at full-time of their noisy support, which made up the majority of the crowd of close to 35,000.

"It felt like a home game," said Stajcic, the Australian who has previously coached his home country at the Women's World Cup.

"To bring football to life in the Philippines has been a moment you can't turn back from.

"These players have really left their mark and left a legacy for future generations. I can't ask any more. They gave everything."

Philippines' defender #19 Dominique Randle (R) and Philippines' midfielder #20 Quinley Quezada (C) fight for the ball with Norway's midfielder #20 Emilie Haavi (L).

Stajcic, who took over in 2021, called on football authorities in the Philippines to increase investment in the grassroots game in the country to give them a chance of returning to future World Cups.

Their starting line-up against Norway featured eight players of Filipino heritage who were born in the United States.

Others were born in Australia, Canada, and Norway.

"I hope we have planted the seeds of the future generations wanting to become footballers," said Stajcic.

"It is a good step but a lot of things have to happen to maintain it because we are starting from a million miles back in reality."

Asked about his own future as coach, Stajcic added: "It's a bit early for all those questions."

"We will reflect on that for now and in the coming days we will start making plans for the future." (AFP)