Deep down, I felt we would: Tahnai

Philippines historic World Cup success revolved around being together all the way

Deep down, I felt we would: Tahnai

Belief! That’s the one word that the Philippines, literally as a team, kept in mind en route to a historic Nation-first by qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Huge it was for the Philippines as among all quarterfinalists they were the lowest-ranked team– World No. 68 and Asia No. 13 – and the only team to sport a rank with double-digits in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup 2022.

For midfielder Tahnai Annis, drafted into the team in 2018, the feat as captain was undoubtedly huge but was in her calm self when caught up with her exclusively.

As a contributory, Tahnai, with 3 goals to her name (2 vs Indonesia and 1 from the penalty shootout against Chinese Taipei) has led by example labouring the responsibility of her team.

Forthright with her simplistic speak, the 32-year-old spoke her heart out a day after the world of football would agree that ‘miracles do happen.’


Congratulations on creating history… It must be a wonderful moment?

Yes, yes, it is. Thank you so much. We're all very excited.

What were the feelings? And can you just take us through those special moments?

So, during the penalty-kick shootout, we all came together beforehand, and we all just kind of came together with confidence and knowing that no matter what happened, win or lose that we deserved to be there, and that we would all stick together and finish this out no matter what the result was. So, it was just a great united feeling right before the penalty shootout. And during the whole shootout, I was very confident, I had a feeling deep down that things were going to work out the way they were supposed to. And I just had so much belief in our team that we would come out on top.

Talking of belief, how does that come in? Is it the players or coach that instils confidence?

I think it's about each one of us. Everyone has their reasons for playing, and reasons for wanting to represent our country. And I think we all just have so much more that we're outside of ourselves. It's obviously our teammates we're playing for, we're playing for our coaches, we're playing for our friends and family. And you know, most importantly, we're playing to represent the Philippines. So, I think there's just so many people that have belief in us, and we have belief in us as well that I think has instilled in all of us.

Victory, and then? Can you recap all that unfolded on the pitch?

We all ran onto the field and celebrated together, which was amazing and nice to just have everyone celebrating. It was kind of just having that relief of all our hard work, over the past few months, finally paying off. And we have, you know, reached one of our goals that we have been preparing for a long time. It was just awesome to have everyone out there on the field with us, all of our staff, the rest of the players. And yeah, I think we're all just so happy to be there and be together at that moment.

The match against Chinese Taipei was a little up and down. The shootout was even more gripping. Any moment you felt the match was slipping?

No, I never felt that way. Even when, even when Chinese Taipei did get back in the game with that goal late in the game. It (the goal) was obviously a setback. We would have loved to win the game in regulation. But, I think, that was just a little bit of a wake-up call for us that we needed to stay focused, and we needed to continue doing what we were doing. And as long as we did it together, I never lost confidence or belief that we still couldn't win that game at any point.

Where did the belief begin… when you beat Thailand or defeated Indonesia with a big margin?

I think it was definitely the first match (v/s Thailand). We had never beat Thailand before and knew it was going to be a good game. And, you know, we wanted to come out and make a statement in the tournament and in our first game, and I think that win against Thailand really set the tone for the rest of our games as we set the bar pretty high. And I think we just kept at it, we kept building and pushing that bar higher in each game and expecting more of ourselves. I think that definitely helped put that belief in us as we move through the tournament in each game.

Australia, who had beaten you, lost on the same day when the Philippines historically qualified for the World Cup. How do you react to this?

Umm, I think in some ways, it can be ironic and a little irony in that. But, you know, that's how football is. Sometimes, you know or never know what's going to happen. Anything can happen. Anyone can win on any given day. There's not really much control in that and how that happens. But I think we're just really happy to get a result. It's unfortunate, you know, how it went down for Australia. But, you know, that's just that's the game of football sometimes.

You've been playing for a long time and now is the moment to play in the World Cup. How does it feel personally?

Personally, I would say it hasn't totally hit me yet. It feels lighter. I feel like I've finally been able to exhale, after the long three months of preparation that we've had, where we've been together every single day. I think it'll be a lot easier to kind of embrace the feeling once we're out of it. We're still in the tournament right now. And we still have games left, but it definitely feels lighter, and I feel a relief, that everything, everything paid off and everything up until this point has been worth it. I'm just so proud of our team and how well we've done and how we just keep fighting. It's just really amazing to see everyone rise to the challenges that have been put in front of us.

Among all three venues between Mumbai and Pune which has been the best?

I think Navi Mumbai (DY Patil) was the pitch I liked the most so far.

How much of an influence has the coach had in building belief in the team.?

I think coach Alen (Stajcic) and his staff have brought in what we've been looking for, for a long time. The experience they have at this level, developing players, helping teams be successful, and showing us what a winning mentality is, has made us what we are today. To be a winning team, I think we always had that belief, but we’ve not had a coaching staff, the kind that believes in us so much and has given us the tools to do it ourselves. He's guided us and helped us in ways that you know we haven't really had before. And I think that's been really both, their experience and just the kind to help us navigate our way through this.

Pune, as a venue, has been ‘lucky’? Winning two matches on the trot…

Yes, for sure and we still have matches to play and go deeper into the Asian Cup.