The Philippines’ Sarina Bolden (left) tries to fifind a way past Switzerland’s Lia Walti. —AFP

The Philippines’ Sarina Bolden (left) tries to find a way past Switzerland’s Lia Walti. —AFP

The Philippine women’s football team returned here to Auckland, New Zealand, firm in the belief that anything can happen despite its first-ever Fifa (International Association Football Federation) Women’s World Cup match ending with a defeat at the hands of Switzerland.

“We’re so confident in what we do and [we’re confident that] we can win the next one and keep going from here,” said goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel, one of the few bright spots in Friday’s 2-0 loss at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin.

Up and down the roster, that belief is as intact as it first was at the start of the tournament even three days after the biggest event in women’s football began with cohost New Zealand stunning Norway at Eden Park here, a result Filipinas coach Alen Stajcic described as one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history.

The Philippines, which dropped a 2-0 decision to Switzerland in its debut stint in this global event on Friday, battles New Zealand on Tuesday in Wellington in a game that now bears significant importance for both sides.

It’s considered as the best chance for the Filipinas to produce a result—a draw or a stunning win—that would leave their supporters in a frenzy while New Zealand might confirm its place in the knockout rounds with another three points.

“We’ll definitely look at getting into the scoreboard this time,” said Katrina Guillou, whose opening goal 15 minutes in was nullified by an offside flag. “It felt that we got some good moments moving forward, maybe tidy up some things in the back. There’s plenty of things we can improve going into the next game.”

The source of the team’s optimism is more tangible than just pure faith.

Stajcic likened the Filipinas’ performance to a slew of notable results so far in the tournament.

Shock result

Aside from New Zealand’s win—the first for the Football Ferns in the World Cup—there was also the shock result of Tokyo Olympics champion Canada being held to a scoreless tie by Nigeria highlighted by Christine Sinclair’s penalty being saved by Chiamaka Nnadozie.

The United States won here, 3-0, over the Filipinas’ fellow Southeast Asian side and World Cup debutante Vietnam, but not before Thi Kim Thanh Tran provided a silver lining by stopping Alex Morgan’s spot kick with the Americans already up a goal before the break.

“That shows that the gap between the teams is not as big as people say,” Stajcic said. “In terms of New Zealand, I think it’s one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Women’s World Cup. They have never won a game, they won and they deserved it.”

The Philippines, Stajcic believes, has shown that it narrowed that gap in the short time he has been with the team.

“I’m proud to say that we bridged the gap of 20, 30, 40 years in just 18 months. That’s the length of time this team has been treated like a professional team,” Stajcic said. The Filipinas will hold a training session on Sunday at Olympic Park here before traveling on Monday to Wellington.

“This [loss to Switzerland] won’t fault us going forward,” McDaniel said.   For Stajcic, Tuesday’s game against the cohosts will be a chance to reboot, with the Filipinas no longer the wide-eyed newcomer playing from behind even before the whistle signals kickoff.

“Next game will be a different ballgame. It starts at nil-all again,” he said.

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