THE Philippines got a boost on its AFC Women’s World Cup campaign as ace striker Sarina Bolden suited up last night against continental power Australia in Mumbai, India.
The Filipinas were eyeing to make it to the quarterfinals to bolster their chances of achieving a first-ever berth in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Bolden, who is currently playing in the Japan’s first women’s professional league, missed the Philippines’ stunning 1-0 win over regional rival Thailand in last Friday’s Group B opener as she entered health and safety protocols.
Chandler McDaniel, the Filipinas’ goalscorer against the Thais, made her second start, while captain Tahnai Annis was placed as a substitute.
The Australians, who last ruled the tournament in 2010, were led by Chelsea superstar and the country’s new all-time leading goalscorer Sam Kerr.
Australia set in motion its bid with a whooping 18-0 victory over Indonesia last Friday.
An added storyline was Alen Stajcic, the Philippines’ new coach, facing his old team for the first time since 2019.
Earlier, the AFC confirmed that the host India was disqualified in the competition after forfeiting its Group A match against Chinese-Taipei last Sunday due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in the squad.
The Indians could not field the minimum 13 players plus a goalkeeper, and withdrawing from a match is automatic disqualification from the tournament.
With India out of the competition, only three teams – China, Chinese Taipei and Iran – are battling it out in Group A.
To avoid any possible disparity in the final comparison between all third-placed teams, the AFC said that results of the matches in Group B and C between the first, second and third-placed teams against the fourth-placed teams will not be counted.
As of press time, with Australia way ahead on goal difference, the Philippines is running second in Group B, while Thailand sitting in third spot. The Indonesians are in the bottom of the Group B table.
The top two teams in each of the three groups plus the two best third placers will advance to the quarterfinals.
The Filipinas will play the Indonesians on Thursday to wrap up their group stage assignments – which could be possibly a warm-up for the bigger battle in the knockout stage if their Southeast Asian rivals remain in fourth place in Group B.