McDaniel and her teammates end PH’s losing streak to Thailand
The Philippines women’s national team coach Alen Stajcic just wrapped up training late Thursday when he learned about a “minor” COVID-19 outbreak within the squad on the eve of its first match in the Asian Football Confederation Women’s Asian Cup 2022 in Navi, Mumbai, India.
A match that the team had prepared and planned for meticulously for the last three months was already under threat even before the kickoff at DY Patil Stadium.
Fortunately for the team, those three months of planning and training together in camp in Irvine, California, proved enough for Filipino women to overcome adversity—and an opponent which the country has not beaten in 12 prior meetings.
Showing discipline and cohesion hardly ever seen in previous teams, the Filipinos leaned on Chandler McDaniel’s wonder strike for a 1-0 win over Thailand at the start of Group B play.
“It’s a massive win, considering the difficulty we had in the last 24 hours [where] we had a small COVID-19 outbreak in our squad yesterday (Thursday) and players have been in isolation for the last 30 hours,” said Stajcic, who guided Australia to two World Cup qualification campaigns in 2014 and 2018.
“We lost one of our key players in (striker) Sarina Bolden just yesterday, so for us to put in that kind of performance and be under such an extreme sort of difficulty just shows how far this team has come—it shows a lot of good qualities in this group. They deserve to be rewarded but ultimately it’s just one game.”
McDaniel actually reprised her heroics in the qualifying stage where she also scored late in the 2-1 win against Hong Kong to book the country’s spot in the Asian Cup.
“We all knew that if we wanted to get a spot in the World Cup that this was the first step,” said the 23-year-old McDaniel, whose mother Linda, traces her roots in Davao and Pampanga.
The win goes a long way in the Philippines’ bid of reaching the Fifa Women’s World Cup for the first time.
While there are tougher matches ahead, particularly against Stajcic’s former team, Australia, on Monday, the Filipinos are in a strong position to secure one of the two Group B places in the quarterfinals.
“It definitely improves our chances of making the next round,” said Stajcic, whose team also has to play Indonesia in Pune on Thursday.
Australia earlier walloped Indonesia, 18-0, to take the lead in Group B ahead of the Philippines on goal difference.
“It’s a big weight off the shoulders of the players who’ve been in this team for a long time. In that respect, it’s fantastic but ultimately after tonight, we’ve got to focus,” said Stajcic. “We have a big game against Australia who are such a powerful team and one of the best teams in the world.”
The top five teams in the tournament will qualify for the World Cup next year cohosted by Australia and New Zealand. Should Australia qualify for the semifinals here, the sixth placed team here will also reach the World Cup.
The second placed team in Group B will meet the No. 2 squad in Group A which could either be India, Iran or Chinese-Taipei for a place in the semifinals—and a World Cup spot.
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