WELLINGTON, New Zealand—Sarina Bolden and the Philippines have given themselves more belief that they can do magical things in a Fifa (International Association Football Federation) Women’s World Cup that has produced many surprises.
And that’s even if they need an even more stunning victory on Sunday to secure their spot in the knockout stages.
To extend the dream ride as debutants in women’s football’s biggest stage, the Filipinas will need to beat former champion Norway, the consensus favorites to top Group A which is groping for form and facing the prospect of an early exit.
“I think anything’s possible,” Bolden said, after her first-half goal on Tuesday propelled the Filipinas to a landmark 1-0 victory over this nation’s Football Ferns at Wellington Regional Stadium.
There are virtually no other options for the Filipinas to sneak into the Last 16 without complications, even if the table after two match days shows that every team is in. Group A still has a chance.
Switzerland leads with four points while New Zealand is ahead of the Philippines on goal difference despite sharing three points each and being on the losing end of their encounter here. Norway has just one point to show.
The Filipinas returned to Auckland on Wednesday to begin preparations for the crunch meeting with the Norwegian side at the 61,000-seater Eden Park. It will be played simultaneously with the Switzerland-New Zealand match in nearby Dunedin.
‘Job’s not done’
“Anything’s possible as long as we just keep doing what we’ve been doing, don’t try to deviate from the plan, don’t do anything crazy, different and just keep working towards the goal of getting better, growing, learning and just continue to win and work hard as much as we can,” said Bolden.
Through two games, the Filipinas have impressed the global football scene, even if the World Cup started in defeat against the Swiss when they conceded twice on a penalty and a rebound off two Olivia McDaniel saves.
“It shows that we can compete at this level and that we’ll keep fighting and we see that it’s possible to get a win, to get a goal, to get points in our games,” said midfielder Sara Eggesvik, the one who set up Bolden’s winner.
“That motivates us, especially now that we have a chance to go even further. [But] I’m glad that we’re not out [yet] because it would be sad,” added Eggesvik.
But a win over Norway will turn what has already been a historic run so far for the team into a fairy tale. Such a massive upset would automatically qualify the Philippines for the next round.
A draw, meanwhile, will complicate matters and pin fans’ gazes on the scoreboard. In that event, the Filipinas will hope that New Zealand falls to Switzerland in the other match.
The top two teams in Group A will face survivors in Group C, which is composed of Spain, Japan, Costa Rica and Zambia. Japan, winner of the 2011 edition and Spain are perceived as teams that will get out of the group.
The Group A winner faces the Group C runnerup in Auckland while the Group C winner meets the Group A runner-up in this city on Aug. 5.
Stajcic, perhaps not deliberately, made a Kobe Bryant reference in pointing out that there’s still something to play for even after the high of prevailing over New Zealand.
“The job’s not done,” said Stajcic. “We’ll switch back to competition mode and think about what we have to do in the last game to try and squeeze out of this group.”
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