Don’t look now, but the Philippines is just one win away from qualifying to the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.
Philippine football reached new heights anew on Saturday with the women’s national football team delivering another milestone, this time in Amman, Jordan.
Fielding a largely unheralded squad, the Malditas came back from a goal down to stun host Jordan, 2-1, for their maiden win in the 2018 Women’s Asian Cup at Amman International Stadium.
The victory gave the Malditas the headstart in their group along with China, which dumped Thailand, 4-0, in an earlier match.
And with the top five teams earning berths to the World Cup in France next year, prospects look bright for the Filipinos after their stunning victory fashioned out before close to 10,000 fans.
The Philippines, which fielded seven new recruits against Jordan, takes the first of two cracks when it clashes against China on Monday.
The last group match against Thailand on Wednesday could turn out to be the ultimate qualifying game for the Malditas.
“I am delighted to win the first match, but I will definitely try to take care of my players for the match against China and potentially use some of the players who did not feature against Jordan,” said Malditas’ French coach Rabah Benlarbi.
“I believe qualification will be achieved in our final game against Thailand and not against China.”
Filipino-American Sarina Bolden, who traces her roots in Pangasinan, made a memorable debut with a 74th minute goal that turned out to be the difference between the two sides that fought tooth and nail right from the start.
Maysa Jbarah opened the scoring for the hosts with an opportunistic strike in the 15th minute, but the Filipinos kept up the pressure which was rewarded when Yasmeen Khair headed the ball into her own net for the equalizer six minutes after the restart.
And after the Jordanians had a goal disallowed for offside, Bolden, a standout from Loyola Marymount University, who had been invited to the United States Under-23 pool only to make the decision to represent her mother’s country at the international level, fought her way past a couple of defenders before producing a clinical finish.
Discovered by Philippine Football Federation scouts in tryouts in the United States late last year, Bolden expressed delight over the result.
“It’s just so exciting to be a part of something so special and big,” said Bolden. “Not only am I playing for myself but I get to a play for a country which is a part of myself, and it’s so much bigger than playing for a college team or a club team. It means so much to me and I’m so glad that I’m able to be a part of something like this.”