Filipinas, Kiwis Collide

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

WELLINGTON – Its first meeting with New Zealand last September made the Philippines believe that, yes, it could be done against the big girls of football.

Today, when they face off again at the grandest stage, the Filipinas bring that unshakeable belief as they try to actually do it at the expense of the FIFA Women’s World Cup co-host Kiwis.

From California 10 months ago, the two sides take their next battle to the Wellington Regional Stadium in this bustling Kiwi capital, with the game’s outcome having big implications on their respective bids in Group A.

“We want to crash their party but it’s not really their party. It’s everyone else’s. It’s our party as well,” said Philippine coach Alen Stajcic.

The Football Ferns triumphed over Norway in the opener last Thursday in Auckland, 1-0, while the Filipinas absorbed a fighting 0-2 loss to Switzerland in their debut the following day in Dunedin.

“I think they’re (Kiwis) definitely going to come in confident after winning their first ever World Cup match which is not an easy thing to do. And we’re hoping we can get that first win for us sooner rather than later,” said Philippine striker Sarina Bolden.

“They’ll be going in confident and strong but we’re definitely going to match that, if not go higher,” she added.

If successful, the Ferns will greatly boost their chances to advance to a second round while giving the Filipinas the boot with a game to spare. For the Pinay booters, a win or draw will not necessarily lead to the next stage, but it will surely make way for a new milestone to celebrate.

The Philippines and New Zealand previously engaged in a tightly-fought friendly in Fullerton, California in 2022. There, the wide-eyed Filipinas, then ranked 56th in the world, pushed the No. 22 Kiwis to the limit before conceding, 2-1, on account of two second-half goals from New Zealand.

Stajcic said that game was a “watershed moment” in terms of lifting the Pinay booters’ confidence level.

“I remember just walking with Katrina (Guillou) at the end of the game, she was expressing the point that we could compete with these teams. We’ve arrived at a point where we improved significantly enough we’re we can go into the field with belief that we can win the contest,” he said.

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