MANILA, Philippines -- The news that the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup will be held in Australia and New Zealand was greeted with great excitement by members of the Philippine women's football team.
The joint bid by New Zealand and Australia defeated Colombia's bid, 22-13, with the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) among those voting for the Oceania countries.
"It's exciting," Philippines defender Hali Long said during a recent appearance on the "So She Did" podcast. "It's not that far away, location-wise and time-wise, because everything is kinda pushed back because of this pandemic."
"It's so exciting," she said.
What makes the Filipinas all the more hopeful is that the field has been expanded from 24 countries to 32, with qualifying matches expected to start next year.
The Philippines had agonizingly missed qualification to the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France, after losses to China, Thailand, and South Korea in the AFC Women's Asian Cup held in Jordan.
"We were right there the last time," Long noted.
"But that also means that we have more competition for those extra spots. More spots, more teams, more competition, and all those other countries are gonna take those spots when we can play," she said.
"So it's really exciting … like hearing that announcement means like, 'okay, when do we start?' Hearing the location of it, it's really cool," she added.
The Philippine women's team is coming off a notable appearance in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, when they finished in fourth place, just missing out on the bronze after a painful 1-2 loss to Myanmar in the bronze medal match.
"Losing in your home ground was the most painful thing," said goalkeeper Inna Palacios. "I really want to put it into motivation and a positive note, that we have accomplished a lot, even if we lost that bronze medal match, and we know we can do more."
"We know that someday we can have it, and once we get that, it's gonna be so sweet," she added.
The women's team received more good news on Wednesday when PFF president Mariano "Nonong" Araneta announced that FIFA had approved the release of $500,000 for the development of women's football in the country.
It was part of an overall grant of $1.5 million by FIFA to the Philippines to assist the PFF in its projects, as well as in helping the federation overcome the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).