The dream of making the FIFA Women’s World Cup became a reality for the national women’s football team after a dramatic 4-3 victory over Taiwan via penalty shootout Sunday, Jan. 30 in the quarterfinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
Staring at defeat during the pulsating shootout, keeper Olivia McDaniel kept things alive with a couple of crucial saves before Sarina Bolden’s goal secured the Pinay booters’ historic moment pulled off in Pune, India.
Dramatic scenes were witnessed by a select few inside the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex plus thousands more back home who had to stay up even after midnight as coach Alen Stajcic steered the Philippines to FIFA’s premier event.
No national football squad — men’s, women’s or even on the youth level — had reached the unreachable goal until this group of players made waves in the continental tournament.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement by the group and it's a moment in history for the country” said Stajcic, the former Australia coach who was hired last October with the task for fulfilling the ultimate goal.
“No one can ever take that away from the group and a new bar that's been set,” he added after spending his first three months in charge preparing the team with a training camp in Irvine, California.
The Filipinas began the Asian Cup with a stunning 1-0 win over Thailand followed by a valiant effort in a 4-0 defeat to Australia and a 6-0 thrashing of Indonesia in the group stage to secure a spot in the quarters against a game Taiwanese squad.
Both teams couldn’t break a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation and extra time after a 49th minute opener by Quinley Quezada, who had missed two goals due to COVID-19 protocols, was cancelled out by a left-footed strike by Zhou Li-Ping in the 83rd.
It appeared that the Philippines will be relegated to a three-team repechage to determine the fifth and last World Cup slot when Taiwan took a 3-2 lead after Jessica Miclat and Hali Long missed their team’s third and fourth attempts in the shootout.
Su Sin-Yun could have sealed it for the Taiwanese on the fifth try, but McDaniel easily got the weak shot in her gloves to keep the Philippines alive.
Curiously, McDaniel was given the chance to extend the shootout, which she capitalized by converting the kick that tied the count at 3-3. Then, she went back behind goal and stopped Zhou’s shot from the spot.
That set things up for Bolden, who earlier in the game had several chances to score but couldn’t find the back of the net. She smashed the winner with ease and a ticket to the World Cup which will be co-hosted next year by Australia and New Zealand was confirmed.
“It was just a dream a couple months ago, but now it's reality,” said McDaniel, later named Player of the Match.
Lost in the incredible moment was the Filipinas’ place in the semifinals where they’ll face South Korea on Thursday at the same venue.
South Korea, Japan and China also secured World Cup berths in earlier quarterfinal matches.
The South Koreans stunned Australia, which Stajcic used to handle, with a 1-0 win, Japan moved closer towards a third straight Asian Cup title after a 7-0 thrashing of Thailand while China came back to prevail 3-1 over Vietnam.