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Filipinas’ Tahnai Annis on U17 Asian Cup: I believe in this PH team

Philippines' team to AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup

Going into the AFC U17 Women’s Asian Cup, the Philippine Women’s Under-17 team have one goal in mind – replicate the exploits of their senior counterparts and qualify to the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup by finishing in the top three.

As always, it is easier said than done.

Bracketed in Group A with hosts Indonesia, perennial favorites North Korea, and heavyweights South Korea, the task is daunting as it is challenging for the Philippines, who are making their debut appearance in this competition.

But, like the senior Filipinas, they go in with a quiet confidence that a top three finish can be achieved in this tournament, which will be held in Bali, Indonesia from May 6 – 19, 2024.

As part of their final preparations, the U17s were at the Vermosa football pitch to play an exhibition match against current PFF Women’s League champions Kaya Women’s and on the sidelines a familiar face was at hand.

Sporting a buzz cut before coming to Manila 'to beat the heat', Filipinas’ co-captain Tahnai Annis was seen conferring with U17 coach Sinisa Cohadzic on the sidelines.

“I’m on staff as one of the assistant coaches, or trainers, or mentors. I kinda wear a lot of hats,” said the affable Annis.

“I’m definitely just helping anywhere that is needed.”

Fondly called ‘T’, Annis explains her motivation in joining the coaching staff of the U17s.

“My motivation for wanting to be part of staff is to be there for the girls and be a little bit more of a link from our youth to our senior team and just make us more accessible to them and know that we support them and that our teams are connected.”

“It’s not two separate entities, so that was my main motivation for wanting to help coach the U17s.”

Seeing the Filipinas midfield maestro on the sidelines giving pointers and instructions must have left quite the impression on the young ladies on the squad, but Annis insists that the feeling is mutual.

“It is definitely more fulfilling to kinda being able to give back and see just how talented the youth are now.”

“Like, I tell them every time how impressed I am by them and just their talent level and things like that and I’m just really excited for them as they get older.”

“I can’t believe that most of them are 14-15-16 years old and at this point --  half my age --  so It’s very fulfilling and I’m just really excited for what the future brings for them and as they get older and start to filter into the senior team.”

Annis is not one to give bold predictions on the tournament, but she believes the young Filipinas are “gonna have a fighting chance for sure.”

“(With) the way that these girls compete and their passion and desire to win and fight for one another and fight for the country, we’re definitely gonna make some waves over there, I hope.”

“I definitely believe in this team that we can get the results that we need.”

But before fans can get ahead of themselves and think of the U17 FIFA World Cup, it is important to acknowledge the enormity of the task ahead in the U17 Asian Cup.

The young Filipinas first need to take care of business against hosts Indonesia on May 6 – no mean feat considering the considerable support the home team is surely going to get at the Kapten I Wayan Dipta Stadium, home Liga 1 side Bali United.

Next up will be three-time champions North Korea, who has reached the final in seven of eight editions of the competition, before finishing the group stages against a South Korea team boasting of star player Casey Phair of NWSL’s Angel City.

But the young Filipinas have no shortage of quality players themselves, from captain and defensive stalwart Ariana Markey to forward Nina Mathelus, who are expected to be key players for the country.

Kickoff against Indonesia is at 7 p.m. Philippine time on May 6.

Good luck, ladies!

—JMB, GMA Integrated News