The Women’s World Cup Primer

by Dylan Bothamley and Max Levin

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off on Thursday, July 20 in Auckland, New Zealand. This year’s event is hosted by Australia and New Zealand, and has been expanded to include 32 teams.

This year is the first time the Philippines has made the Women’s World Cup, joining the United States Women’s National Team, winners of the 2019 World Cup.

The Philippines has had a significant presence on the international stage in sports like basketball and boxing, but the women’s soccer team has made great strides in recent years.

They narrowly missed out on the 2019 World Cup and then made the semi-finals of the 2022 AFC Asian Cup, which allowed them to secure qualification for this World Cup.  The Philippines entered the tournament as major underdogs to advance out of a strong Group A bracket that also included Switzerland, New Zealand and Norway.

The team is led by star striker, Sarina Bolden who is of Filipino descent but was born in the United States, where she attended Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She has played professionally in Sweden, Taiwan, Japan and now Australia.

Bolden has been terrific for the Philippines throughout qualification, scoring the penalty which secured the Philippines entrance into the World Cup, and a total of 22 goals in 37 appearances for the Philippines heading into the tournament.

Like the Moroccan team that advanced to the semi-finals of the 2022 Men’s World Cup on the strength of a number of foreign-born players of Moroccan decent, pulling from its diaspora has been a great advantage for the Philippines in building its team.

Captain Tahnai Annis and key defender Hali Long were also born in the US, and are joined by players born in Canada and Norway, as well as coach Alen Stajcic, who previously served as coach of his native Australia’s women’s soccer team.

Coach Stajcic has instilled a strong collective attitude among the team and helped to build a sturdy defense that propelled them to qualification for the World Cup.

Many feared the worst when the team lost their opening match 2-0 to Switzerland on July 21, but the Philippines struck back with a hard-fought victory over co-hosts New Zealand in Wellington. Bolden scored the only goal of the match with a header in the 24th minute of the match, and the Philippines defenders dug deep to stave off several waves of pressure from a talented New Zealand team.

The nature of the World Cup tournaments is different than that of professional soccer in which stars and role players frequently switch teams season after season.  World Cup squads typically play together for years, bound by their love of country.

A victory against the host team in the World Cup is a very impressive showing.  This is the type of win that a team can build upon. It’s even more impressive for a country appearing in its very first World Cup. This was an announcement to the world that the Philippines are here to compete with the very best. 

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