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Tue 6 December 2022

Philippines vs. Switzerland in ’23 World Cup opener

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Familiar foe NZ, powerhouse Norway join Pinays in Group A

After 128 years of football history, the Philippines will play for the first time in the FIFA World Cup on July 21, 2023 as the women’s national football team will battle Switzerland at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand.The Filipinas were drawn third in Group A during the 2023 Women’s World Cup Draw Saturday in Auckland.

Joining them are co-host New Zealand and 1995 champion Norway. The top two teams in the group will advance to the Round-of-16.

The Philippines, a basketball crazy nation with a niche football following, is ranked 53rd in the world, its highest in team history.

They have reached the semifinals of the 2022 Women’s Asian Cup last February, won bronze medal in the 2021 Southeast Asian Games last May, and won the 2022 ASEAN Football Federation Women’s Championship last July—all firsts by the debutantes.

The Filipinas are led by 2018 batchmates Sarina Bolden (Saitama) and Quinley Quezada-Keca (Red Star Belgrade), the country’s leading scorers with 17 goals each; captain Tahnai Annis, the most senior player at 33; vice-captain Hali Long (Kaya-Iloilo), the most capped player with 62; goalkeeper Olivia McDaniel, who has nine clean sheet; and striker Anicka Castañeda (Kaya-Iloilo), the best homegrown player with nine international goals in 2022.

The Filipinas are coached by Alen Stajcic, Australia’s most successful coach who towed the Matildas to the quarterfinals of the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. He also has two runner-up finishes for Australia in the 2014 and 2018 Asian Cup.

The Filipinas clinched their World Cup ticket with a Bolden spot kick to win against Taiwan, 1-1 (4-3), in penalty shootout in the quarterfinals of this year’s Asian Cup.

Switzerland, an alpine country where football is the most popular sport, is ranked 21st in the world and got their highest rank at 15th in 2016.

They are playing in their second Women’s World Cup after reaching the Round of 16 in 2015, losing to host Canada, 0-1. Their World Cup debut was a loss to Japan, 0-1, followed by a 10-1 thrashing of Ecuador, and capped by a 1-2 loss versus Cameroon in Group C.

La Nati has a dismal performance in the UEFA Women’s Championship, playing only in the group stages of the 2017 and 2022 editions.

The Swiss are led by topscorer and most capped player Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic (Barcelona) with 67 international goals in 135 caps; Ramona Bachmann (Paris Saint-Germain) with 53 goals in 123 caps; goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann (Real Betis), the most senior player at 36; and captain Lia Walti, a defensive midfielder who is vice-captain of Arsenal.

Their head coach is Denmark’s Nils Nielsen, who coach the Red and White to the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euro finals and bringing China to the 2018 Under-20 Women’s World Cup.

Switzerland became the last country to qualify to the Women’s World Cup after escaping Wales, 2-1, in extra time in the UEFA play-offs last October 11. Another notable Swiss miss is Fabienne Humm (Zurich), who scored the winning goal in the extra time of the 120th minute.

The Filipinas will next face New Zealand on July 25, 2023, in Wellington and will end Group A action against Norway on July 30 in Auckland.

The Ferns are in their sixth World Cup and has not gone past the group stage in all appearances. Ranked 22nd in the world, they came from a 2-1 come from behind win against the Filipinas in a friendly in Fullerton, California last September 6.

Their biggest achievement was a quarterfinal finish in the 2012 Olympics. They have won gold in six Oceania Women’s Nations Cup and the inaugural AFC Women’s Asian Cup in 1975.

They are led by Hannah Wilkinson (Melbourne City), the team’s leading scorer in the active roster with 27 international goals and coached by ex-under-17 coach Jitka Klimkova of the Czech Republic.

Norway, the last group foe of the Filipinas, is the highest-ranked in the group at 12th in the world. However, they are coming from a 0-8 shellacking from Euro champs England last July, eliminating the Grasshoppers from the continental cup.

The two-time Euro champions won the World Cup in 1995 and the Olympic gold in 2000. They lost in the quarterfinals to England, 0-3, in the 2019 World Cup. They emerged undefeated in ten games in Group F of the World Cup qualification in UEFA to earn a ticket to New Zealand.

They are led by Caroline Hansen (Barcelona) and Ada Hegerberg (Lyon) with 44 and 42 international goals, respectively, and coached by Hege Riise, regarded as the greatest Norwegian woman player of all time.

Filipinas star midfielder Sara Eggesvik (Malvik) and trainee Abrahamsen (Arna-Bjornar) were former under-23 national players of Norway and are currently playing club football there.

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