Sarina Bolden said the national women’s football team’s successful bid to secure a historic berth in the FIFA Women’s World Cup was a product of a winning mentality that was lacking in past campaigns.
Bolden saw the transformation during the ongoing AFC Women’s Asian Cup with the Pinay booters gaining a spot in the 2023 World Cup with a quarterfinal win over Taiwan via a penalty shootout.
“There’s just been a change and like a belief that we are a team that can compete all the way to the 95th-plus minute. And I think a lot of that contributes to the coaching staff that we have today,” Bolden told local football writers in a virtual press conference arranged by the Philippine Football Federation Monday, Jan. 31.
The team hired former Australia women’s coach Alen Stajcic to handle the squad for the Asian Cup with immediate success.
Under Stajcic, the Pinays produced stirring performances in India, none bigger than the 4-3 win over the Taiwanese in a penalty shootout following a 1-all tie at the end of regulation and extra time.
“They've given us great foundation principles, a great standard that we all hold ourselves to. And so those are great things to fall back on,” said Bolden, whose kick in the shootout secured the dramatic victory.
The Philippines had to play a shootout after its one-goal lead courtesy of Quinley Quezada’s opener in the 49th minute disappeared following an equalizing strike by Taiwan’s Zhou Li-Ping.
But Bolden said, the team stayed resolute, even during the shootout when a pair of misses put the Philippines behind 3-2 and relegation to a repechage to determine the last World Cup spot looming.
“When times get stressful when another team scores a late goal in the second half, we can believe that, ‘Hey, we've been practicing this stuff, time and time again,’” she said.
“We believe that we're the better team. And you know, ‘Let's not freak out. Let's not lose this belief that we can't do it. This is soccer and you know, these things happen.’
“But you know, the better team prevails if you know we're able to execute. And for me most importantly, believe that we're going to win,” Bolden concluded.
Amid the celebratory mood that came after fulfilling the World Cup dream, Bolden there’s no reason for the team to chase for more glory, with a semifinal duel with South Korea next on the Philippines’ Asian Cup schedule.
A win will send the Filipinas to an unlikely appearance in the final, either against two-time defending champion Japan or China. For Bolden, it is a goal that is now attainable, given the way they have performed throughout the Asian Cup.
“I think everyone's like, ‘Hey, we won this game, we just made history, like on top of history. And it's like might as well just, you know, keep going to the top, let's win this whole tournament,’” the striker said.
“So the belief is like, let's just continue to make history. Let's keep proving people wrong. And let's keep working hard. And let's achieve more than what people even thought we could achieve.”