With eye on Women's World Cup qualifying, PFF looks to keep national girls U-14 team intact
The national football federation hopes to see the Philippine Under-14 girls squad develop into contenders on the world stage. Karlo Sacamos

The Philippine Football Federation (PFF) hopes the keep the national girls 14-under team intact for future age-group tournaments in an ambitious long-term quest to compete in the women’s World Cup.

The teenage Filipina booters made the country proud after embarking on a Cinderella run on the way to bagging the silver medal the Asian Football Confederation U-14 girls regional championship in Vientiane, Laos last week.

“Hopefully these girls will go together again for another tournament,” national coach Joyce Landagan said of her 18-woman squad composed of a mix of local and overseas-based standouts chosen from over 100 tryout hopefuls.

PFF general secretary Ed Gastanes said the AFC is planning to increase the age of the entry-level competition to Under-15 next year, enabling the current squad to be eligible to compete as a unit anew.

“It’s not yet final, but that’s the direction,” Gastanes bared during the homecoming of the girls squad at the PFF office on Tuesday. “So there’s a very good chance that we’ll have the same material.”

PFF president Nonong Araneta confirmed the development, hoping to keep the core together until they’re good enough to make it to the premier international competition for women.

“The ultimate goal is for us to qualify for the World Cup,” Araneta said.

Carleigh Frilles, a Fairfax, Virginia-born striker, emerged as the team’s leading scorer with four goals in five matches, including a hat-trick in their 5-1 win against Myanmar in the semifinals that proved to be the highlight of their campaign.

Katelyn Alexander, Maria Lazo, and Trinity Wambolt also struck for the Filipinas with two goals each in the tournament.

Malditas skipper Marielle Benitez, who made her coaching debut as an assistant along with fellow seniors’ squad members Belay Fernando and Patrice Impelido, attested to how fortunate the girls were to gain international exposure early.

“I think if the Philippines is able to keep these girls together, they’ll live up and bring them on to the U-16, U-19, and then the seniors squad,” Benitez said. “I don’t think it’s far to see the Philippines in the women’s World Cup.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos