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Mon 22 July 2024

Pinays on Olympic tightrope, nip Iran in Perth finale

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The Philippine Women’s National Football Team has technically kept their Olympic hopes alive, nipping a much-improved Iran squad, 1-0, to end the second round of the 2024 Olympic Qualifying Tournament – Asian Zone (OQT) Wednesday in Perth.

Team captain Tahnai Annis caught an opening off an excellent Zahra Khajavi parry of Sofia Harrison’s strike and scored on the rebound for the Filipinas’ lone goal in the 19th minute for her 15th international goal.

Iran, though, was lethal in the final third despite having only 38 per cent of possessions.

Superb on their first touches of diagonal passes, the Shirzanan front two of Negin Zandi and Zahra Ghanbari had two open attacks in the 23rd minute and first half stoppage time but were ably saved by Olivia McDaniel.

Ghanbari had her best chance at tying the game in the 50th minute, but her power strike from 20 yards hit the crossbar, much to the scare of McDaniel.

Even in heavy traffic inside the penalty box, Ghanbari still extricated a direct shot on goal in the 82nd minute but was likewise saved by McDaniel.

On the other side of the pitch, star forward Sarina Bolden had four dangerous attempts within the box but three of her attacks were saved by Khajavi.

In the 79th minute, Katrina Guillou had the best chance at doubling the score but her wide open power strike Khajavi power blocked the strike.

In all, the Filipinas have notched two wins and a loss in Group A of the OQT second round and their third straight against Iran.

Despite this, the nationals are walking on a tightrope en route to the third round, needing exactly a draw between South Korea and China in Group B and at least a draw or an Uzbekistan loss in the Group C nightcap between the emergent Central Asian power and India.

The Filipinas, then known as Malditas, previously defeated Iran, 2-0, in the 2020 OQT second round with goals coming from Joyce Semacio and Shai del Campo.

Their biggest win against the Middle Eastern footballing nation was a 7-0 blast in the 2014 Asian Cup qualifiers. Jesse Shugg led the Ernie Nierras-coached Malditas in that game with a brace.

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