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Malditas keep core, bring in 6 newcomers for WAC

The Malditas are going all-in in their bid to make the FIFA Women's World Cup. PFF (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—The Philippine women's football team will be bringing back most of its players from last year even as it welcomes six senior team rookies and brings back four veterans for the AFC Women's Asian Cup later this month in India.

As revealed on Tuesday by the AFC and later confirmed by the Philippine Football Federation, the Malditas have brought along 13 players from their team in the qualifying round last year led by skipper and main goalkeeper Inna Palacios.

Returning to duty too are Tara-Allison Shelton, Hali Long, Ryley Bugay, Sofia Harrison, Malea Cesar, Tahnai Annis, Cam Rodriguez, Jessica Miclat, Chandler and Olivia McDaniel, and Anicka and Sara Castaneda.

On the other hand, three Malditas who last played in the Southeast Asian Games in 2019 are making a comeback, namely Sarina Bolden, Eva Madarang, and Quinley Quezada.

Also returning is Morgan Brown, who was with the Malditas in the 2018 WAC.

Meanwhile, two former youth team members are making their way to the senior squad, namely Keanne Alamo and Carleigh Frilles.

Alamo was a member of the Malditas' under-16 squad in 2019, while Frilles was with the under-14 squad in 2016.

Completing the roster are debutants Kiara Fontanilla, Dominique Randle, Isabela Flanigan, and Katrina Guillou.

Among those playing for the Malditas' first team for the first time, Guillou is arguably the most high-profile as she plays for Pitea in the Damallsvenskan, the top-flight women's football league in Sweden.

While Guillou is listed as a defender with the Malditas, she is actually listed as a midfielder at Pitea.

The Malditas need to at least crack into the Top 5 in the WAC to earn a spot in next year's FIFA Women's World Cup.

Coach Alan Stajcic, who previously brought Australia to the WWC, is bullish about their chances.

“I’ve got a lot of hope and a lot of belief that we can actually achieve the goal,” said Stajcic. “The players are all aligned and driven to succeed as one and that’s what we have to do to give ourselves every possible chance of getting one of those spots for the World Cup.”

The Malditas are now in the final stages of their training camp in the United States before they fly for Mumbai for the WAC.

They will first face Thailand on Jan. 21 before battling Australia on Jan. 24 and Indonesia on Jan. 27.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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