Game on July 25 (Sky Stadium)
5:30 p.m. – New Zealand vs. Philippines (1:30 p.m. PH time)
WELLINGTON – Tuning out the hometown crowd and being focused on their foes is what Australian coach Alan Stajcic and striker Katrina Guillou said they require for the Filipinas to prevail over the Ferns in their pivotal FIFA Women’s World Cup Group A match at the Sky Stadium on Tuesday, July 25.
“Playing in front of a hometown crowd is (obviously) a big advantage for New Zealand. Being a host nation and being a home team has been always been an advantage in 150 years of football,” Stajcic acknowledged during the pre-match press conference on Monday, July 24.
The Australian tactician, however, noted that “fortunately we don’t have to play 25,000 people but against the 11 players on the field and whoever comes in as a substitute.”
“Tuning out the crowd and being 100 percent focused and putting our best forward will give us the best possible chance to win the game,” stressed Guillou, who nearly scored the opening marker that was ruled offside in the 0-2 loss to Switzerland in Dunedin last week.
The stakes are high for both squads as they play their second game in the group at 5:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m. Manila time).
A win by the Ferns, who opened their campaign with a rousing 1-0 triumph over Norway at packed Eden Park in Auckland last week, will boost them into the knockout round while the Filipinas will be fighting for survival and hope to extend their debut stint in the women’s football showcase.
But as his wont, Stajcic did not dwell on the negatives, saying: “Obviously we are looking forward to this game. It is exciting to play the host nation, a wonderful occasion and a wonderful opportunity to showcase our team.”
Instead of being intimidated by the hometown gallery, he added that situation might just have an opposite effect on his underdog side.
“On the opposite spectrum, we have to embrace it. It (the match) is a brilliant occasion for our team as well. Playing in front of a big crowd and taking it all is a very special moment. One that they (the Filipinas) will cherish for the rest of their lives,” Stacjic pointed out.
“So you want to go out there and give it your best shot. As motivated as it is for New Zealand, I think it is also for us as well. I believe it is brilliant, unbelievable and magical to have that kind of support for a national team. But is also our moment to shine and celebrate our game,” the coach said.
Both Stajcic and Guillou remembered the squad’s maiden meeting with the Ferns, who needed to come from behind to emerge on top with a 2-1 decision in a friendly held in the US in September.
“It was really an important game for us because it was the first In a long time that we played a team high in the rankings. I remember walking off with Katrina at the end of the game and she was expressing the thought we can compete with these teams,” he recalled.
“The game showed that we can rise to this level. As to whether we can make it tomorrow, I don’t know. But we want to crash the party. It is not just really their (the Ferns’) party, it is everyone’s party and our party as well,” Stajcic underscored. “We have arrived at the point where we have improved significantly enough to believe we can win the contest.”
Guillou shared her mentor’s optimism, saying: “We know that it is going to be a difficult one but all of us have been rising to the occasion and tomorrow will be another match.”