The recipe for Philippines’ historic World Cup win? Adventure, a touch of luck and sheer desire


History has been made.

On their tournament debut, in just their second outing on the biggest stage football has to offer, Philippines have a first FIFA Women’s World Cup victory.

Sarina Bolden‘s name is the one that will be written in the history books as she climbed highest inside the New Zealand box and forced a powerful header past Victoria Esson in the 28th minute for what proved to be the decisive moment in a 1-0 win for Philippines.

But there were heroines all over the park.

And these indomitable Filipinas had the right recipe at their disposal to whip up a World Cup upset for the ages.

The first ingredient?

Adventure. And credit for that one has to go to coach Alen Stajcic.

Having opted for a cautious 5-3-2 in the 2-0 loss to Switzerland in their Group A opener, the Australian tactician deployed his charges in a traditional 4-4-2 this time around.

Granted, formations are not always a direct representation of a team’s approach. A 5-3-2 can easily transition to a 3-4-3 in play.

Physically, they are just positions that players have been instructed to take on the field after visualization from magnets on a whiteboard.

But mentally, it can sometimes make all the difference. A subliminal idea that, on this day, the intent is one of attack.

That certainly looked to be more of the case than it did against the Swiss from the opening whistle on Tuesday.

Then, there was the desire — and that was the most crucial factor behind Philippines’ triumph.

Through sheer industry two minutes before the half-hour mark, Sara Eggesvik chased down the ball kept play alive down the right after a freekick delivery from the right had been half cleared before hanging it back into the area.

And showing endeavour in equal measure, Bolden decided that cross belonged to her — and only her — despite several obstacles in her path, leaping over both Rebekah Stott and CJ Bott to force a header towards goal that was just too powerful for Esson to keep out.

It was testament to Bolden’s determination that she would not let a quiet outing against the Swiss discourage her from playing the pivotal role she is expected to perform for the Filipinas.

Just three days on, she delivered.

Of course, when such monumental upsets happen, luck often plays a part.

It did so when the woodwork came to Philippines’ rescue in the 64th minute, after an incisive New Zealand attack down the left led to Jacqui Hand clinically sliding a shot past Olivia McDaniel only to see the effort come back off the foot of the post.

Four minutes later, the back of McDaniel’s net finally rippled but Hand was to be denied once more — this time upon VAR review as Hannah Wilkinson was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.

It was the closest of calls as far as marginal decisions go, as replays would prove. If Wilkinson had indeed strayed beyond the last opposition defender, it would literally have been by less than a millimetre.

But fortune was certainly favouring the brave.

Philippines would certainly have been thinking they had earned their right to a touch of good fortune having been on the opposite end of a similar call that led to them conceding against Switzerland.

As the contest wore on, the Filipinas had to draw on even more courage as a new opponent emerged — the majority of the 32,357 at Wellington Regional Stadium who were understandably now fully behind the home favourites.

The country of New Zealand has undeniably been welcoming hosts to all its Women’s World Cup visitors but this was no longer the time and place for niceties. Not when their own were staring at a defeat that could be potentially costly to their hopes of reaching the knockout round.

Whistles from the vociferous Wellington crowd followed each niggly challenge or cynical foul that Philippines delivered to break down New Zealand’s play.

Each time McDaniel gathered possession and then looked to take some time off the clock with the ball in her hands, the crowd — quite humourously, in fact — would count the seconds down as if to remind the referee of the time limit before the goalkeeper had to be penalised.

Just when it looked like the ingredients had gotten the job done, Philippines needed one more dash of one of those right at the death.

The most important one at that.

As Grace Jale found herself in space at the back post in the third minute of injury-time, she did extremely well to connect to Bott’s looping cross with a solid first-time volley that seemed destined to find the bottom corner for a New Zealand equaliser.

Through sheer desire, it did not.

McDaniel probably had no right to keep out Jale’s effort. She was not going to die wondering and tried anyway. Flinging herself to her left, she somehow pulled off an incredible fingertip save to divert the shot wide.

She refused to be beaten. Philippines refused to be defeated.

And through that, the Filipinas now have a maiden World Cup win to savour.


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