Filipinas’ World Cup Cinderella run ends, but applause, admiration remain

Filipinas’ World Cup Cinderella run ends, but applause, admiration remain

The FIFA Women’s World Cup match on July 30 that pitted a heavyweight against a team playing for the first time on football’s grandest stage resulted in what most sports pundits expected.

Hope that the Filipinas—or the Philippine Women’s National Football Team—would pull an upset against Norway had been stoked by its 1-0 win in its earlier game against tournament cohost New Zealand. That single goal made by forward Sarina Bolden was not only historic for the Philippines but captured global attention as well, and raised the happy possibility that the Filipinas were ready to take their game to the next level.

Filipinas World Cup Cinderella run ends, but applause, admiration remain
“Laban (Fight) Filipinas” is the battle cry. —ALL PHOTOS IN EDEN PARK COURTESY OF DIVINA C. PAREDES

The match was held at Eden Park in the heart of Auckland. “There was none of the vaunted ‘Filipino time’ last Sunday,” Filipino journalist Divina C. Paredes, now based in New Zealand, wrote in her notes sent to “Filipinos—whole families, couples, barkadas—were among the first to arrive at the stadium, getting there hours before the 7 p.m. game, unfurling and waving the Philippine flag in all sizes. it was like attending a fiesta back home. Eden Park looked more like the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila, except that the spectators wore mid-winter gear of warm coats, beanies, and gloves.”

Related: Filipinas, new queen of Asean football, raises the bar higher


But Norway was relentless. Needing a 3-goal winning margin against the Philippines to get a chance of advancing to the Round of 16, the 1995 World Cup champion took advantage of the Filipinas’ porous defense and inexperience and produced a 6-0 victory. Norway’s team, aka the Grasshoppers, dominated ball possession (72% of the time) and 31 shots (13 on goal). The Filipinas on the other hand, only made four shots with only one on goal.

Norway’s Ada Hegerberg—winner of the Ballon d’Or (the award for football’s best player) and six-time European champion—was absent due to a groin injury, but forward Sophie Roman Haug stepped up and became Norway’s star of the match, delivering three goals (at the 6th and 17th minutes and another one at the 5th minute of the extra time). Winger Caroline Graham Hansen hit the third goal on the 31st minute to close the half time at 3-0.

Filipinas' World Cup Cinderella run ends, but applause, admiration remain
View of audience and pit

The fourth and fifth goals were both heartbreakers. The Filipinas’ Alicia Barker, while defending Norway’s Frida Maanum, deflected the ball that sailed right into the Philippines’ own net, making the score 4-0 just 3 minutes after the start of the second half (48th minute). Goal No. 5 came at the 53rd minute courtesy of a penalty kick converted by Guro Reiten. The Norwegian winger was earlier tackled from behind by Filipinas’ Jaclyn Sawicki—a move deemed a trip after a VAR (video-assisted referee) review, and resulted in the awarding of the penalty kick.


Norway’s game was a turnaround considering that they were stunned by New Zealand, 1-0, during the opener on June 20. In their second game on July 25, Norway had to settle for a scoreless draw with Switzerland and was relegated to the last spot in Group A. Hansen, who didn’t see action during the scoreless match, lashed out at Norway’s coach, Hege Riise, for leaving her on the bench. Hansen has since apologized for her public outburst but the interview prompted speculations that the Grasshoppers were in disarray heading to their match with the Philippines.

Filipinas coach Alen Stajcic ditched the 3-5-2 formation that he had used against New Zealand and tried a 4-4-2 formation with Angela Beard, Jessica Cowart, Hali Long and Alicia Barker forming the backline for goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel, who made seven saves during the match.

Katrina Guillou, Sawicki, Sara Eggesvik, and Quinley Quezada formed the midfield while Isabella Flanigan teamed up with Bolden to mind the frontline.

But the Grasshoppers, with a taller and much faster lineup, employed several headers and cross plays to discombobulate the already dispirited Filipinas. With the win, Norway advanced to play against the winner of Group C—Japan or Spain on Aug. 5—with Switzerland facing the runners-up of that group.

Still phenomenal

So the Filipinas did not advance to the next round. But what they have achieved is still phenomenal, with no other football team from the Philippines, male or female, able to reach, let alone score in, a World Cup event. Vietnam (ranked 37th), the only other team from Southeast Asia, bowed out the group stage without scoring a goal.

Filipinas World Cup Cinderella run ends, but applause, admiration remain
Philippine flag up front

Wrote Paredes: “Throughout the 90-minute game, as Norway scored goals, Filipinos continued to cheer the Philippine team. Their score was nil at game extension, yet Filipinos continued to cheer them, banging drums and chanting, fervently hoping that the extra minutes would allow them to score.”

In the end, when the winner was announced, “the whole stadium rose and applauded the players,” Paredes wrote. “And Filipinos continued to wave the flag because, after all, having the Philippine national team compete in the World Cup is already a victory.”

Exchanging comments on Viber throughout the game, Bunny Fabella, a trustee at Jose Rizal University in Manila, and Pi Legarda, a human resources consultant in London, agreed on the resounding upside of the Filipinas’ experience.

Although the Filipinas committed an own goal, conceded a penalty, got red-carded (which obliged them to play minus one player), and conceded a hat trick in the dying minutes of the game, all these are “difficult but good” lessons for them and for next-generation players to learn from, according to Fabella, a staunch supporter of women’s sports in the Philippines.

Who were there to applaud the Filipinas in Eden Park? Paredes spoke with a couple of them.

Filipinos engage in a “Filipinas’ Fans cultural march” around Eden Park before the game.

“We are truly humbled to be part of this history!” said Prof. Kiko Diaz, dean of the University of the Philippines’ College of Human Kinetics. He went on to say that win or lose, the admiration and support for the Philippine team remained: “Talo o panalo, hinding hindi mababawasan ang aming paghanga at suporta sa ating Filipinas. Labis rin ang aming pagkamangha sa lahat nang ating mga kapwa Pilipino na sumuporta at nagpakita ng umaapaw na pagmamahal para sa ating koponan sa Eden Park.”

Former UP Diliman chancellor Fidel Nemenzo said: “It was wonderfully inspiring to experience the sense of community and the energy of the Filipinos in Eden Park. Thank you to the Filipinas football team for bringing us to the World Cup, for bringing Pinoys together, for breaking that psychological barrier: We can compete with the world’s best.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.