Angie Beard and Jaclyn Sawicki made history for the Philippines on Tuesday afternoon, helping their team to a magical 1-0 win over New Zealand in Group A of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The win was the nation’s first ever at a World Cup finals, sparking wildly emotional celebrations after the final whistle.
Sarina Bolden’s first-half header was the match-winning moment, though Alen Stajcic owed much to his goalkeeper, Olivia McDaniel, who produced a stunning player-of-the-match performance.
A mesmeric save from Grace Jale’s side-footed volley may well go down as the best of the tournament, McDaniel pouncing to her left and pawing the ball away from the bottom corner of the net as it appeared to flash beyond her reach.
That save and Bolden’s goal will be highlights relived for many years after this World Cup tournament, while Sawicki and Beard both played vital roles in helping to secure the win.
Starting and playing the entire 90 minutes just as they did in the tournament opener against Switzerland, Beard and Sawicki were once again key contributors for the Filipinas.
While having less joy with the ball than she did in the Switzerland match, Beard remained a vital leader at the back for the Philippines as New Zealand piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser in the second half.
Alongside her centre-back partner and Philippines captain Hali Long, Beard made an incredible seven clearances in the match as well as two tackles.
Perhaps Beard’s best contribution of the match was one that won’t show up on the stat sheet. New Zealand thought they had found an equaliser through Jacqui Hand with 20 minutes to play, but a VAR check showed Beard had positioned herself brilliantly to play Hannah Wilkinson offside in the build-up.
Sawicki was as energetic as ever in midfield and was one of the Philippines’ best performers, exuding poise and assuredness both with and without the ball.
The No.4 attempted (34) and completed (23) significantly more passes than any of her teammates, and her pass completion rate was also the best of any Philippines player.
Western United’s inaugural Liberty A-League Women captain did everything to keep her side on the front foot, completing the most passes into the penalty area and the most carries with the ball.
Equally impressive was Sawicki’s defensive contribution with three clearances, two tackles and one blocked shot as the Philippines were pinned back towards their own penalty area late on.
The final whistle put an end to the late-game jitters and saw the Philippines through to a landmark victory, and one that keeps them firmly in the mix for a place in the knockout stages.
Stajcic’s side meets Norway on Sunday with the entire group being separated by just one point, meaning a win for the Philippines would send the team through to the Round of 16.