Dream comes true for booters

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Dream comes true for booters
The Philippine women's national football team.

MANILA, Philippines — Olivia McDaniel, Chandler McDaniel, Tara Shelton and Cam Rodriguez of the Philippine Women’s National Football Team said yesterday coach Alen Stajcic’s squad will work three times harder for the 2023 FIFA World Cup than the recent AFC Women’s Asian Cup where the booters made it to the semifinals.

In a collective commitment, they said it’s a dream come true to play on the sport’s biggest stage and vowed to compete proudly in making history as the first Philippine football team, male or female, to qualify for the 32-nation World Cup. At the moment, the team is on vacation mode after sacrificing four months to prepare for the India qualifiers. Then, it will regroup to begin training for the SEA Games in May. “Before we broke up, we agreed to be responsible and accountable with individual training so we’ll be ready when the time comes,” said the 20-year-old Shelton who played on the Philippine side that took fourth in the last SEA Games.

The team is slated to compete in the SEA Games, ASEAN Championships and Asian Games this year with the mindset of playing at a higher level than the Asian Cup. Rodriguez said making it to the World Cup is both a culmination and beginning in her football story that started when she claimed MVP honors in the 2009 and 2010 Palarong Pambansa. “It’s like going full circle,” she said. “This is what I’ve been dreaming of, working hard for, since growing up in football through the Palaro, RIFA and UAAP.”

Meeting up with football legends on the field at the World Cup is on their wish list. Rodriguez said her idols are Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi and Spain’s Alexia Putellas while Shelton named the Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema. The McDaniel sisters had different choices with Olivia picking South Korea’s Ji So Yun and Chandler, Scotland’s Erin Cuthbert. “I didn’t get tested by Ji in our game against South Korea because she was pulled out early but she scored an incredible goal against Australia,” said Olivia, nicknamed the Pink Panther.

The McDaniel sisters grew up playing football, coached by their father Clint. “I was six and Olivia was seven when we started playing together on the same team,” said Chandler who scored the only goal in the Philippines’ 1-0 win over Thailand in the Asian Cup. “Liv and I played on the same high school team then we went to different colleges before getting together again at the University of Minnesota at Milwaukee. What I like about Liv is how far she kicks the crap out of the ball and what I don’t like is if I have to get it. Against Chinese-Taipei in the penalty shootout, no doubt, I knew Liv would save our butts.”

In the shootout, Chinese-Taipei could’ve gone up 4-2 but the crucial penalty hit the post and bounced out. “That was Jesus out there,” said Olivia. “At the start of the shootout, I was a little off center but I focused, told myself I’m gonna get one, I couldn’t let the team down so I saved one then I forgot it was my turn to do the penalty kick which I converted. I came back to save another one. I knew we were going to win it, no matter what.”


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