Olivia McDaniel isn’t new to saving the day for the Philippines.
Her performance that secured the Philippines’ historic first win in the FifaWomen’s World Cup, however, dwarfs her previous rescue act, the one that helped the team seal a spot in the grandest stage of women’s football.
“I think this means just a bit more,” McDaniel said on Tuesday after her work between the sticks in the tense moments of a 1-0 win over tournament cohost New Zealand here at Wellington Regional Stadium prompted Fifa to award her the Player of the Match trophy.
McDaniel was also the star of the dramatic win over Chinese-Taipei in the quarterfinals of the 2022 Women’s Asian Cup that sent the Filipinas to the World Cup for the first time.
In that January 2022 game, McDaniel’s two saves denied the Taiwanese side a chance to seal the win and set up Sarina Bolden’s strike from the spot to confirm the Philippines as one of the early qualifiers of the tournament.
Eighteen months later, the 25-year-old came to the rescue once more as she made sure that a momentous goal that put the Philippines in front, again from Bolden, would not go for naught.
McDaniel came through with stops, including one dramatic save off a right-footed attempt by an unmarked Grace Jale during added time on a chilly evening match here in Wellington.
That diving save sealed the win and turned her into a hero for one nation—and a villain for another.
Jeers from a majority of the 32,000-plus crowd were soon directed at McDaniel, as fans became frustrated by her goalkeeping efforts and for perceived gamesmanship. At one point the crowd began counting down each time McDaniel held on to the ball as if to say she was intentionally drying the clock.
“I mean, it’s welcomed,” McDaniel said of the crowd’s jeers. “We knew that we’re on their own soil, we knew their crowd was gonna be huge.”
“But our kababayans (compatriots) that made it out here were louder. And they helped keep me composed. They were our 12th man tonight.”
Luck also played a huge role for the Filipinas. Jacqui Hand’s equalizer was canceled after the video assistant referee caught Hannah Wilkinson barely offside before executing the pass with more than 20 minutes left in the contest.
“Oh my gosh,” McDaniel said, gasping when she was asked about that call during an interview at the mixed zone area. “I think we all took a sigh of relief and we were like, ‘Alright, we’re still in this. It’s still our game, it’s still our win on the line.’ So we needed to protect that and I think we did our best at doing that.”
And while she and Bolden had been anointed saviors of the Filipinas, McDaniel deflected much of the credit for the award-sponsored credit card company, saying the victory was pulled off by the hard work of an entire team.
“Sarina’s header was amazing. And our defense made their work cut out,” she said. “But all of us, we put our heads down, we stuck together, we kept the ball out. And I’m so grateful to [my teammates], they worked their asses off.”
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