By Ignacius Carell Cruz


Sabrina Bolden’s golden touch shone brighter than ever for the Philippine Women’s National Football Team — rewriting history along the way. 

Bolden’s thunderous header in the 59th minute gave the Filipinas a splendid start to its campaign in the AFF Women’s Championship 2022 to shock the World No. 12 Australia, whom they have never beaten before, 1-0, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on Monday.

Coming off a fresh trip in Europe where they bucked a painful defeat to Ireland and two wins against Bosnia and Herzegovina, the World Cup-bound Filipinas rode on their game-long momentum to stamp their class against the Under-23 team Matildas, led by senior team member and team captain Charlotte Grant.

After a scoreless and defense-heavy 45 minutes, the Philippines leaped up front thanks to Eva Madarang’s crucial throw-in towards Bolden, who then punished the tall Australian defense as goalie Jada Mathyssen-Whyman could not do anything but watch the ball bounce towards the net, 1-0. 

Five minutes later, the Matildas tried to capitalize on defensive errors by the Philippine side, but Olivia McDaniel made sure a strike by substitute Leah Davidson and ensuing tap in from Mackenzie Hawkesby would not see the back of the net, thus keeping the lead for the Filipinas.
Bolden had a golden opportunity to double the lead and secure the win for the Malditas in the 77th minute, however her left-footed antics missed above the goal post and opened the gates for an Australian comeback.

The match ended with a nail-biting finish as Australia gained a free kick just outside the box, but the defensive wall formed by the World No. 53 Filipinas proved to be much stronger to secure the historic victory and the whole three points for the country.

Head Coach Alen Stajcic, a former Australian football player, lauded the brilliant performance showcased by Filipinas on its own turf against his own country.

“To beat a team that has been in the Top 10 in the world and has peaked at No. 4 in the last decade, it just shows how far we have come and I am really proud of them. But still, it is just the first game of the tournament, and we still have a long way to go,” said Stajcic.

On the other hand, Bolden, who also led the Philippines to its first-ever bronze medal in over three decades in the Hanoi Games, attributed the win to their growth as a team fast-tracked by their training in Europe over the last couple of weeks.

“We just came back from playing and training in Europe and I think it helped us develop our game and confidence. The two wins against Bosnia and a tough game against Ireland really prepared us for today’s game. We did not let up, we had composure, we had heart, and just more confidence,” according to Bolden. 

The Philippines will try to add three more points on Wednesday as they face Singapore who drew against Malaysia earlier today. Meanwhile, the Matildas will look to bounce back as they encounter the streaky Thailand team who destroyed Indonesia, 4-0.

Edited by Quian Vencel Galut