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Malditas keep core of SEA Games team for AFC Women's Asian Cup Qualifiers

Cam Rodriguez will be among those returning to action for the Malditas in the AFC Women's Asian Cup Qualifiers. Mia Montayre/PFF (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--The Philippine women's football team will be banking on its key players from its 2019 Southeast Asian Games team as it vies for a spot in the AFC Women's Asian Cup through the qualifying rounds starting on Saturday.

Goalkeeper Inna Palacios will be leading the squad also known as the Malditas as the team captain even as defender Hali Long has been named the co-captain.

Also called up from the team that finished fourth in the SEA Games held in Binan are defenders Chelo Hodges, Tara Shelton, and Patricia Tomanon, midfielders Sara Castaneda, Cam Rodriguez, and Charisa Lemoran, and striker Alisha Del Campo.

Three players from the Malditas' 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup team are making their way back in defender Ryley Bugay and midfielders Tahnai Annis and Jessica Miclat.

Sara's sister Anicka, who last played for the Malditas in the 2018 AFF Women's Championship, is also making a comeback along with defender Sofia Harrison.

Rocelle Mendano, who played in the 2019 AFF Women's Championship, has also been called up.

Meanwhile, two players from the Malditas' under-16 squad are called up to the senior team, namely striker Arianna LePage and goalkeeper Isabelle Mapanao.

On the other hand, three more Filipinas are set to make their national team debuts, namely goalie Olivia McDaniel, midfielder Malea Cesar, and striker Chandler McDaniel.

The team, coached by returning Malditas tactician Marlon Maro, is already in Tashkent ahead of its showdown against Nepal on Saturday and Hong Kong the following Friday.

The team that will end up on top of their group will join defending champion Japan, 2018 runner-up Australia, third placer China, and incoming host India in the AFC Women's Asian Cup along with seven other teams from the qualifiers from Jan. 20-Feb. 6, 2022.

The top five teams from the AFC Women's Asian Cup will qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, but if co-host Australia enters the Top 5, the sixth-placed team will get a spot too.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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