HISOR (Tajikistan): The spotlight was on Adeel Rizki, Pakistan’s head coach whose credentials did not fulfil the requirements but still on the bench for the national women’s team’s opening Group ‘E’ match against the Philippines in the first round of qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Olympics here at the Hisor Central Stadium on Wednesday.
There had been no clarification by the Asian Football Confederation, whose guidelines to federations state that a Pro-Licence holder should be the head coach of both national men’s and women’s football teams, on how Adeel was in the technical area despite being only a B-licence coach; his presence sparking protests back home with coaches claiming that merit had not been respected.
Half an hour into the game, Adeel’s charges had fallen three goals behind against a side ranked 112 places higher than them in the FIFA rankings. For all the facilities provided and extensive training camps held for the team — including a final preparatory one in Dubai, a rout seemed on the cards. Adeel knew things had to change and those he made prevented a very heavy defeat.
Pakistan conceded only once after that, that too six minutes from time, to lose 4-0. For the buoyant Philippines, who are looking forward to their maiden participation at the FIFA Women’s World Cup in a few months’ time, it was the perfect start to the campaign in which only the group winners will advance to the second round of qualifying.
Philippines dictated the pace and dominated possession early on with Hali Long, in her 70th international appearance, gave them the lead with a header in the 22nd minute, finishing Sarina Bolden’s delivery into the box from a corner.
Bolden doubled the lead three minutes later with a downward header past goalkeeper Rumaysa Khan following a beautiful ball by Eva Madarang. Madarang then made it 3-0 with a screamer from outside the box with Pakistan’s defence unable to cope.
Pakistan reorganised their defensive lines and although the Philippines were relentless going forward, they held them at bay until Quinley Quezada found the perfect through ball to Chandler McDaniel, who finished the scoring with aplomb.
Pakistan’s next game comes against Hong Kong on Thursday before they wrap up their Group ‘E’ commitments with a game against hosts Tajikistan on April 11.