PWNFT flies to the FIFA Women's World Cup
01 Feb 2022
QUEZON CITY - Our very own Philippine women's national football team made HERstory by successfully qualifying for the 2023 FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Women's World Cup after outlasting Chinese Taipei last January 30, 2022) in the quarterfinals of the 2022 AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Women's Asian Cup in Pune, India.
Prior to this week, no Philippine football team had ever qualified to a FIFA World Cup, but the Malditas, currently ranked 64th in the FIFA Women's Rankings and coached by Australian Alen Stajcic, made what once seemed impossible a reality.
Against the Taiwanese, who are currently ranked 39th in the world, the Malditas struggled to finish in the first half of play, but Quinley Quezada drew first blood at the 49th minute, toe-poking the ball past Chinese Taipei's goalkeeper after a header into the box by Katrina Gillou.
The Taiwanese drew level, however, at the 82nd minute after Zhuo Li-Ping arced a long range shot past the outstretched arms of Filipina goalkeeper Olivia Davies-McDaniel. That equalizer forced a goal-less extra time, which then led to a scintillating penalty shootout.
The Malditas' World Cup hopes hung by a thread after the first few rounds of penalty kicks, with Chinese Taipei making good on their first three tries even as the Filipinas converted on just two of their first four PKs.
But McDaniel saved her heroics for the endgame, stopping the next two Taiwanese attempts while also sending the ball past counterpart Cheng Ssu-Yu for a 3-3 tie after each side attempted five times from the spot.
The Chinese Taipei team was hoping to retake the lead with Zhuo attempting her own penalty kick (PK), only for McDaniel to once more rise to the occasion, stopping her third straight PK, which gave way for striker Sarina Bolden to finish the job.
Bolden, who also plays for Chifure AS Elfen Saitama in Japan, was up to the challenge, sending the ball to the left corner with authority as the Malditas continued to defy the odds and book their place in next year's World Cup, which will be hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
"It's an unbelievable achievement of the team," head coach Alen Stajcic said after the match. "The group is really proud of each other, but we are more proud that we can inspire the next generation of players."
The result was the Philippines's third win in their last four fixtures. They slipped past Thailand (1-0) before bowing to Australia (0-4) and defeating Indonesia (6-0).
The campaign is not over yet, though, as the Malditas will next take on South Korea on Thursday. The Philippines will face South Korea in the semifinal round on February 3.
"It hasn't really hit me yet. It's really surreal. I'm really proud of this team," McDaniel said. "It was just a dream a couple of months ago but now, it's reality." she said.
Aside from Quezada, Bolden, Guillou, and McDaniel, the other members of the team are goalkeepers Kiara Fontanilla and Inna Palacios, defenders Morgan Brown, Ryley Bugay, Isabella Flanigan, Katrina, Sofia Harrison, Hali Long, Dominique Randle and Tara Shelton, forwards Carleigh Frilles, Eva Madarang and Chandler McDaniel, and midfielders Keanne Alamo, Tahnai Annis, Anicka Castaneda, Sara Castaneda, Malea Cesar, Jessica Miclat, and former Ateneo Lady Blue Booter Camille Rodriguez.
A day after their historic win, Rodriguez wrote on an Instagram post, "MAGANDANG UMAGA, PILIPINAS! WE’RE GOING TO THE WORLD CUP!!! A lot of trust, hard work, and puso!!! So freakin proud and grateful for my team and the village that raised us. Salamat, salamat din sa inyong lahat na sumusuporta samin "
Let us continue to support the Philippine women's national football team as they finish their 2022 AFC Women's Asia Cup campaign and prepare for next year's FIFA Women's World Cup. Keep flying high, Malditas! We're proud of you!
Photos courtesy of the Philippine Football Federation