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Destiny on their hands, Pinays came to play and win

The Philippines registered probably the biggest win in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup yesterday against the heavily favored co-hosts New Zealand, 1-0. Against all odds and despite playing erratically in the opening 30 minutes of the game, the Filipinas made the most of the rare opportunities given to them by the Football Ferns.

The Filipinas only had four shots at goal in the entire game, but scored the one that mattered most and their only shot at target, in the 24th minute via a Sarina Bolden header against two defenders that went past a backpedaling Victoria Esson.

The goal — the first by the Philippines in World Cup history — probably summed up the collective aspirations of a country hoping that its gritty Filipinas will somehow put up a good fight against the Kiwis. That somehow, they can put behind them their 2-0 defeat to Switzerland in their opening game. And to do that against the host nation is just a bonus.

Credit should not only be given to Bolden. Olivia McDaniel played the game of her life in goal, parrying everything the Football Ferns dished out to the last minute of the match. Sara Eggesvik’s cross made it possible for Bolden to slam home the historic goal.

The whole team laid their hearts and soul on the pitch with their defense and the football gods blessed them with luck, twice – on the offside that could have been New Zealand’s equalizer in the 68th minute, and earlier in the 64th minute when Olivia Chance’s shot was just wide by a few millimeters, hitting the far post instead. Almost, but not quite.

At the end of the match, credit should also be given to Coach Alen Stajcic. He brought the New Zealand team to class. The head coach made the needed adjustments and football smarts that the team observed to the fullest during the entire match.

Stacjic came prepared against the Football Ferns. His 5-3-2 formation was perfect to negate the explosive play of Hannah Wilkinson, who proved to be the biggest headache for the Filipinas, literally and figuratively, the entire match. The defensive alignment proved to be the key to shutting down Wilkinson, who never found the back of the net despite many attempts.

Stajcic was also able to motivate his players to be patient and to be more aggressive. The Filipinas went only for the long balls when a pattern of attack was available or possible. They took everything New Zealand threw at them in the opening minutes and grabbed the first opportunity presented to them.

Defense won the game for the Filipinas as they also showed discipline and maturity throughout the game.

Before the match, New Zealand was riding high on the momentum of upsetting Norway in the first game for their first win in the World Cup. Many can’t be blamed if they expected the Football Ferns to run through the Filipinas with ease and march to the knockout stage with a foot in the door. Instead, they now have to win their last game against Switzerland to do so.

The Filipinas — not given much by so many football pundits before the start of the tournament — now have destiny on their hands. A win against Norway will guarantee them a spot in the knockout stage. What appeared to be an impossible scenario a few days ago is now an even bigger possibility.

The Filipinas came to New Zealand to play. They showed they can. They also proved they can win too. And please, don’t make me tell you that I told you so.

Laban, Filipinas!

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Credit belongs to : www.manilastandard.net

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