Meryll Serrano wasone of the goal scorers for the Filipinas against Hong Kong.

Meryll Serrano was one of the goal scorers for the Filipinas against Hong Kong. —PFF PHOTO

The Philippine women’s football team expects a tough road moving forward in its ambitious quest to reach the Paris Games, a contrast to its dominant form in the first round of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

National coach Alen Stajcic believes the Filipinas remain a work in progress even after sweeping Group E of the first round of qualification, producing a combined 16 goals while conceding none against Pakistan, host Tajikistan and Hong Kong.

“We’ve improved a lot but there’s still a lot of hard work to do,” Stajcic said after the Philippines’ 4-0 win over Hong Kong on Tuesday at Hisor Central Stadium. The Australian mentor pointed out that “our finishing has to be better if we want to compete with the big nations in Asia.”

The Filipinas will join Australia, Japan, China, South Korea, North Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan, India and Iran in the second round where they’ll be divided into three groups.

Under the format of the second round slated in October, the group winners and the best second placers will progress to the last phase of the Olympic qualifier.

‘No easy match’

“There’s no easy match in football, every match is different and difficult and you have to respect your opponent,” Stajcic said. “We know we’re coming up against big nations now in the next round, Australia, Japan, China and the two Koreas, Thailand and Vietnam.”

“It’s going to be very difficult for us and we need to be ready,” he added.

The Filipinas got two goals from Sarina Bolden and one each from Meryll Serrano and Quinley Quezada to end the first round with nine points from three matches.

It was another impressive showing for the Filipinas, who gained much-needed game preparation going into the Cambodia Southeast Asian Games next month and their historic Fifa (International Federation of Association Football) Women’s World Cup participation in July.

“I thought we played well. We controlled the game well. [It was] probably our best control we’ve had this week here against a good opposition, an opposition 15 months ago we beat only 2-1 in the last minute,” said Stajcic, who coached his 100th career international match.

“It just shows how much we’ve improved.”

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