The Philippines yesterday won a World Cup match for the first time, as they stunned the FIFA Women’s World Cup cohosts New Zealand, but former champions Norway suffered a double blow to leave their hopes in the balance.
Philippines coach Alen Stajcic said on the eve of the New Zealand match that his side wanted to “crash the party,” and they did just that with a gutsy 1-0 victory in front of 32,357 fans in Wellington.
Sarina Bolden scored the only goal with a header in the first half for a famous Philippines win — the country’s first at either a men’s or women’s World Cup.
Switzerland and the 1995 champions Norway — who lost star striker Ada Hegerberg moments before kickoff with injury — then drew 0-0 in the Hamilton rain, leaving the Swiss in the driving seat in Group A.
Switzerland are top with four points, one ahead of New Zealand and debutants the Philippines. Norway have scored no goals and garnered just one point.
Switzerland just need to avoid defeat against New Zealand on Sunday to reach the last 16.
The Philippines could join them for a fairytale place in the knockout stage, but no matter what happens next up against Norway at the weekend, beating the Cup hosts would live long in the memory.
“I can’t believe what we have achieved,” tearful Philippines midfielder Sara Eggesvik said.
In contrast, the New Zealand players were left in tears.
“It’s so heartbreaking for everyone in this team,” said their Czech coach Jitka Klimkova, whose side beat Norway 1-0 in the opening game of the tournament for a first-ever World Cup win of their own.
“We were fighting until the end, but it wasn’t enough,” she said.
More than 8,000km away, elated supporters watching on the big screen at the UP Town Center shopping mall in Manila erupted in screams and song.
Although soccer is not nearly as popular as basketball or boxing in the Philippines, and most of the players on the women’s national team have been recruited from the country’s large diaspora, fans at the mall said the victory was special.
“It’s always been a dream to play in the World Cup, but winning, winning the first game is surreal,” Christopher Andrew Datu, 40, said.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s like telling the Philippines that ‘you can do it, you can do it Philippines, you can play football, you belong to the world.’”
In the first game of the day, Colombia were too good for a blunt South Korea with a 2-0 victory.
Eighteen-year-old striker Linda Caicedo, who overcame cancer three years ago, was the beneficiary of a glaring goalkeeping error when Yoon Young-geul allowed the striker’s shot to squirm through her hands.
Catalina Usme had scored a penalty to put the South Americans in front on the half-hour in bright sunshine in Sydney before Caicedo got the second nine minutes later.
South Korea coach Colin Bell brought on US-born attacker Casey Phair as they chased the game in the second half. At 16 years and 26 days, she made history as the youngest Women’s World Cup player ever.
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