In front of a stunned packed crowd 32,357 of mostly hometown fans at the Sky Stadium, the Filipinas pulled the rugged from the under the fancied Ferns, 1-0, on Tuesday, July 25, achieving a history-making feat and at the same time keeping their hopes alive in in Group A of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
At the front of it all was no other than irrepressible striker Sarina Bolden. She became the hosts’ tormentor, taking a nifty cross from Sarah Eggesvik in scoring a header in the 24th minute that goalkeeper Victoria Esson could not contain resulting in the ball fumbling out of her hand and flipping onto the net.
Goalkeeper Chandler McDaniel also shared the spotlight, earning Woman-of-the-Match honors for her timely saves in another nerve-wracking thriller that saw the Filipinas achieve a score of firsts as the breaks finally went their way.
Nowhere was this seen when Jacqui Hand’s potential equalizing header in the 68th minute, when McDaniel was caught out of position, was ruled offside by Mexican referee Katia Garcia after reviewing the play with the Virtual Assistant Referee – much to the Philippine camp’s relief.
Playing with grit and gumption from that point on, the Filipinas managed to hang on and preserve their first World Cup win on top of gaining three well-earned points that put them back in contention of advancing to the next round after a 0-2 loss to Switzerland in Dunedin last week.
After their rousing 1-0 win over Norway in Eden Park last week, the wards of Czech coach Jitka Kimklova slid in to a tie with the upstart Filipinas with similar 1-1 win-loss records each.
Switzerland held Norway to a scoreless draw at the Waikato Stadium in Hamilton to wind up on top of the group with four points while leaving their rivals, who were earlier tipped to the top the bracket, mired in last place with one point.
“This must be a special moment in (Philippine football history), the biggest win in any team sport,” Australian coach Alen Stajcic stated of the enormity of the victory.
However, he later admitted that Lady Fortune also smiled on them.
“Of course we rode our luck because New Zealand had three or four unbelievable chances There was that VAR call, an inside the post goal (that McDaniel was able to save),” he recalled. “But the unity, work rate and heart of team was special. We had some luck but we earned that luck. “
“We really put our head down and we knew what was really coming at us. New Zealand would be coming hard from their momentum of their win against Switzerland but we put our head down and came in focused. We had a goal in mind and we achieved it,” McDaniel said of the rousing triumph.
She also chose to share her trophy with the rest of her team and the country, saying: “This is just what I have done, this is what the team has done and what the country has done. It was a team win.
“It is amazing but hopefully this is not the last accolade we will win. It is a team win.”
As what she would do with her trophy, the plucky goalkeeper, still euphoric from the victory, quipped: “Hopefully we will keep it next to the World Cup trophy when we get it.”
But she admitted that like the rest of her teammates, she had some anxious moments when Hand’s pointblank goal was being reviewed by the referee on the VAR.
“We collective held our breath a minute or two. Such an incredible goal by them but we are grateful that it was called back and we had to move forward. We had to settle down and knew that would keep coming and we to make sure that it would not happen again,” McDaniel said with relief.
Asked where this victory ranked, Stajcic, a two-time World Cup coach with the Matildas, replied without batting an eyelash: “Beating the host nation in a World Cup, nothing beats that. It’s No. 1.”
As early as three hours before kick-off time, fans, including Fiiipinos sporting red-white-blue scarves and PH flaglets, started streaming in at the 34,000-capacity stadium.
Among them were actor Ryan Agoncillo and popular actress wife Judy Ann Santos, who flew all the way from Manila to support the Filipinas and watch them play.
Also among the crowd was Magnolia assistant coach Jason Webb, a former football player in his high school days, with daughters Tatiana and Blessing plus former Senator Freddie Webb and wife Elizabeth Webb in tow.
The Filipino community also came out here in full force with around 500 of them, led by community leader Matilde Figuracion and husband Clark , who, clad, in colorful “Ati-Atihan costumes, led around 100 of them in a street dance from the waterfront to the arena just before kick-off.