THE GRIND continues for newly-minted Asean champ Philippines as tough friendlies against topnotch opposition like Costa Rica and New Zealand are in the pipeline in its aggressive buildup for next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup.

“There are invites from Costa Rica, which has also qualified for the World Cup, to play in Costa Rica and we’re also trying to arrange a friendly against New Zealand,” Philippine Football Federation (PFF) president Nonong Araneta said during yesterday’s PSA Forum.

The Filipinas’ international sorties are being set for the FIFA match dates of Aug. 29 to Sept. 2 and Oct. 3 to 11 just before the scheduled World Cup draw on Oct. 22.

Mr. Araneta said the goal is to also gain previous ranking points to put the Filipinas in a better position in the draw, which will be based on the countries’ rankings.

“There will be five pots in the draw and we’re in the fourth pot and we just need eight points to make the third pot. Hopefully, we can be on Pot 3 so we don’t face the heavyweights right away,” he said.

Mr. Araneta, who joined Filipinas mainstays Inna Palacios, Hali Long and Cam Rodriguez in the online forum, also bared that the PFF is looking at a possible Four-Nation Meet featuring the Philippines and fellow WWC-bound sides in either Bocaue or Clark in June 2023 just prior to the global showpiece.

The record-breaking Filipinas themselves recognized the enormous mountain to climb in the WWC as they enjoy the top view in Southeast Asia.

“As a team, we always seek to grow together. Yes, we won and we’re celebrating now but we also have to think we have a bigger goal to achieve,” said Ms. Palacios.

The veteran keeper said the win “opens the door for us to keep improving and make sure we always show up because it’s a whole different level out there.”

“As a group, we decided we won’t just go there to participate, we’re going to go there to compete. That’s a long shot but we’re confident we can do it.”

She welcomed the upcoming friendlies as part of their growing and learning process.

“We’ll be looking at playing at every FIFA window to help the team experience playing different types of football tactics around the world,” Ms. Palacios said. — Olmin Leyba