McDaniel Goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel saves the ball like no tomorrow during the Philippines-New Zealand match Tuesday. PFF photo

McDaniel points to ‘Puso’ as key to Filipinas’ victory

July 26, 2023 Theodore P. Jurado 234 views

GOALKEEPER Olivia McDaniel, who dodged every New Zealand attack to preserve her clean sheet and the Philippines’ historic first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup victory, simply has one word in mind.

“Puso,” McDaniel said after the Filipinas’ thrilling 1-0 win over the Football Ferns to keep their hopes alive of advancing the knockout stage Tuesday before 32,357 fans at the Wellington Regional Stadium.

Her valiant performance was exemplified in the stoppage time when the 5-foot-8 keeper denied Grace Jale’s attempt with a fine save.

McDaniel, who took Player of the Match honors, was so delighted to win it for the Philippines, not only for those who watched at the venue, but also those who witnessed the feat at homes and at the viewing parties.

“Absolutely, (the award is) for the country. It’s for the entire team. Being debutants in the World Cup, it can’t be just for yourself, it’s for everybody. Every single person helped fight for this, so it’s not just a single person’s win, it’s everybody’s,” McDaniel said.

“We knew that it would happen. We are on (their) home soil. We knew there was gonna be huge support, but our kababayans have made it out tonight. They were louder, and that’s all I heard, really. That’s what made me composed, and they were our 12th man tonight, so it’s really helpful,” she added.

Holding back emotions during the post-match press conference, while relishing his team’s huge achievement, coach Alen Stajcic is a firm believer of the Filipinas.

“Of heart and spirit, this team has got it in spades. In all those factors, they are 10 of 10,” said Stajcic.

“They are one of the best teams in the world for unity, collective effort and playing above themselves as a unit. When you see that and you know what you have, that is what makes it really special,” the two-time World Cup veteran mentor stressed.

The win came just the squad’s second World Cup match, compared to what other countries had to go through in attaining one.

Among the eight debutants in this 2023 edition, it was the Philippines which only won so far.

“For New Zealand I think it was their 15th or 16th match or five or six World Cups,” he recalled of the Football Ferns’ drought until they scored a breakthrough 1-0 win over Norway in Auckland last week.

“While watching Colombia and (South) Korea before our game, the commentator said they have one win each. Korea has been at least in five or six World Cups and Colombia three or four,” he added.

“To think that we have done it in our second match in our first World Cup. You can’t really appreciate how far we’ve come back in the pack compared to where those countries where in terms of their football history, their culture and investment.”

Sitting in third place in Group A, the Filipinas shoot for a place in the knockout stage against the Gresshoppene at 3 p.m. on Sunday in Auckland. New Zealand will take on group leaders Switzerland at the same time in Dunedin.