Western United stars Jaclyn Sawicki and Angie Beard began their FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign on Friday afternoon as the Philippines took on Switzerland.
It marked a historic occasion for the nation as it made its World Cup debut, with the team led by Alen Stajcic arriving on the world stage after significant development over the last 18 months.
Beard, making her Philippines debut, started on the left side of the defence while Jaclyn Sawicki took up a place in midfield as Stajcic set his team up in a 4-4-2 formation.
Switzerland quickly settled into the ascendancy in possession but the Philippines remained firm at the back as Beard led the defensive line, marshalling her teammates into position and communicating any potential threats before they arose.
Wearing No.13, Beard also exhibited her excellent ball-playing ability as she was frequently the outlet for the Philippines to build possession out of the back either with a pass up the field or a direct run with the ball herself.
Across the entire game, Beard led all Philippines players with 54 touches, 44 attempted passes and 33 carries with the ball.
Beard very nearly thrust her name into the history books when her long ball was latched onto by Katrina Guillou in the first half but after the Philippines attacker rounded the goalkeeper and found the back of the net, the offside flag brought an end to the team’s celebrations.
Much like Beard, Sawicki was one of the Philippines’ main outlets in possession as she saw plenty of the ball in midfield.
The No.4 completed 26 passes at an 84% completion rate – both figures placing her in the top three amongst the Philippines squad – and was also crucial defensively with a team-high three tackles along with three clearances.
Perhaps most impressively, though, Sawicki covered an enormous 12.03km over the 90 minutes, more than any other player on the pitch.
The Philippines held out in the match until a VAR review awarded Switzerland a dubious penalty on the stroke of half-time, allowing Switzerland’s star attacker Ramona Bachmann to slot home from the spot.
The controversial nature of the penalty and its timing right before half-time proved to knock the wind out of the Philippines’ sails as Switzerland added a second after the break to clinch the three points.
The team will now look ahead to its second game in Group A against co-hosts New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon, looking to pick up its first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup points.