Filipinas women's world cup philippines switzerland

Philippines players acknowledge supporters after a 2-0 loss to Switzerland during the Women’s World Cup Group A soccer match between the Philippines and Switzerland in Dunedin, New Zealand, Friday, July 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

There was a reason to feel that the Philippine women’s football team was able to conduct itself very well amid modest expectations against a fancied European opposition in its dream Fifa (International Association Football Federation) Women’s World Cup debut.

“To come to this level and be able to compete against players from Europe is miraculous,” coach Alen Stajcic said after a 2-0 defeat to Switzerland Friday in Dunedin, New Zealand, a result that was not a nightmare whichever way one looks at it.

The outcome came after the Filipinas had a Katrina Guillou opening goal disallowed, a harsh penalty call through video assistant referee (VAR) that resulted in Ramona Bachmann’s spot kick before halftime and Seraina Piubel getting the rebound after two spots by goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel which doubled the deficit.

For a team experiencing what the biggest tournament in women’s football is for the first time, the scoreline is a satisfying one for the debutants, who were expected on paper to receive a thorough thrashing from everyone else in Group A.

“You saw true spirit, true heart, a team that never gave up, proud of their jersey, proud of the flag, proud of the people they represent,” said the Aussie-born mentor. “And I think that’s the most important thing, you know, to come to the World Cup for the first time in the history in men’s or women’s football and to put on a performance like that and just showed courage and heart is the first and most important thing.”

That renewed confidence will be the thing Stajcic and company hope to carry on Tuesday in Wellington when the Filipinas face the cohost, who opened the World Cup with a landmark 1-0 upset of Group A favorite Norway.

“I think we’ve shown that we’re competitive. That’s the main thing. We played New Zealand last year in a friendly and they won 2-1. So we know that they’re a strong team as well and they’ve shown that against Norway,” he said.

“We lost 2-1 [in that friendly] so we know if we can improve a little bit, I think we can be competitive in that game,” added Stajcic.

Nullified goal

The Philippines’ SaraEggesvik (left) and Katrina Guillou sandwich Switzerland’s Eseosa Aigbogun. —REUTERS

The Philippines’ Sara Eggesvik (left) and Katrina Guillou sandwich Switzerland’s Eseosa Aigbogun.

The opening half witnessed a Philippine team that seemed unnerved with its first taste of World Cup pageantry.

And it was almost a dream start that led to momentary joy from those inside the venues and countless more back home and in different parts of the globe as Guillou found enough space to score a right-footed shot 15 minutes into the game.

But the offside flag was up, which was supported by television replays and saw Guillou already ahead of the defenders when the pass was made, nullifying what would have been a landmark moment for Philippine football.

Stajcic offered to believe that had Guillou’s goal counted, that would have been a game-changer.

Then the deflated moment close to halftime when Jessika Cowart and Switzerland’s Coumba Sow were battling for possession inside the box. Referee Vincentia Amedome called for the VAR, Fifa’s video review system, before eventually announcing that Cowart fouled Sow and pointed at the spot.

“It’s just an incident that happens in the box, wasn’t it?” Stajcic lamented. “Both went in and, from what I saw, the ball was just there, it’s a contested ball and the Swiss girl slid in with her studs up, just swung her leg. I just don’t know if it just got her or not.

“That’s just a moment in the game, there are moments like that that happens in a game. It just happens in the penalty box and it just happens in a critical moment of the game. It went Switzerland’s way,” he added.

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