(UPDATED) The Philippine women's national football team continues to make history and raise the bar for themselves.
The Filipinas defeated Chinese Taipei, 4-3, in a heart-stopping penalty shootout to secure their spot in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, Sunday at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune, India.
One hundred and 20 minutes were not enough to settle the AFC Women's Asian Cup quarter-final affair between the Philippines and Chinese Taipei, with the match heading into penalties after the squads remained locked at 1-1 after extra time.
Goal-keeper Olivia McDaniel emerged as the hero that the Philippines needed in the penalty shootout, as she saved two spot kicks from Chinese Taipei that set up Sarina Bolden netting the winner.
All had seemed lost for the Philippines when Chinese Taipei took a 3-2 lead after Jessica Miclat and Hali Long saw their efforts saved, though a poor attempt by Hsu Yi-Yun gave the Filipinas a glimmer of hope.
McDaniel stepped up to the plate, saving the spot kick of Su Sin-Yun then netting the penalty that knotted the count at 3-all. She then came through with another clutch save on Zhuo Li-Ping, paving the way for Bolden to fire into the top left corner for the kick that sent the Filipinas to the Women's World Cup.
This marks the first time that the Filipinas will compete in the showpiece event -- and a first for Philippine football as a whole.
"It's an unbelievable moment for the group," said head coach Alen Stajcic, who has steered the Philippines to a historic Women's World Cup berth after taking over the program just last October.
"Now every young kid back home in the Philippines can be inspired… We're really proud of each other, but we're even more proud that we've inspired the next generation."
The Philippines also advanced to the semifinal of the tournament, where they will play South Korea.
The Koreans earlier eliminated pre-tournament favorite Australia, thanks to a sensational strike from Chelsea star Ji So-yun in the 88th minute that sealed their 1-nil triumph.
"Look, I'm not even worried about the semifinal for the moment," admitted Stajcic. "We just qualified for the World Cup, and we'll enjoy that tonight. It's a remarkable achievement, it's never been done before."
"You just have to soak up those moments," he added.
The Filipinas appeared headed for victory in regulation thanks to Quinley Quezada, who flicked in a shot off a Katrina Guillou header four minutes after the restart to put her team ahead.
It was a well-deserved goal for the Filipinas, who had dominated possession in the first half but lacked the finishing in the final third to truly trouble the Chinese Taipei goal-keeper.
Chinese Taipei, ranked 39th in the world, turned up the pressure after giving up the goal, but the Philippines defense remained resolute with Dominique Randle and Hali Long again turning back the Chinese Taipei attack.
But Chinese Taipei would not be denied. Zhuo scored a superb goal in the 82nd minute, firing from well outside the box into the top left corner, beyond the reach of McDaniel.
The Philippines pressed forward in search of a winner, and Bolden nearly came through in the closing minutes but was kept out of the goal by Chinese Taipei.
But the Japan-based striker converted when it mattered most, and the Philippine squad erupted in celebration when she sent her kick past Chinese Taipei 'keeper Cheng Ssu-yu and punched their ticket to Australia/New Zealand in 2023.
"It hasn't really hit me yet," said McDaniel afterward. "It's surreal. I'm just really proud of this team. To be able to create history like this… It was just a dream a couple of months ago, but now it's reality."
"We lost our composure a little bit," Stajcic said of their second half effort. "That's probably the disappointing part of the game, from a tactical perspective. But on a night like this, who really cares?"
Even before their World Cup qualification, it had already been an unforgettable tournament for the Philippine women's national football team.
They opened their campaign with a 1-0 triumph against Thailand -- their first victory over their Southeast Asian rivals in 13 attempts. They displayed a commendable effort in a 4-0 loss to powerhouse Australia, before sealing their spot in the knockout round with a comprehensive 6-0 demolition of Indonesia in their final Group B game.
But the victory against Chinese Taipei was their most important so far, as it assured them of a first-ever appearance in the FIFA Women's World Cup -- an impressive feat for a team ranked 64th in the world by FIFA.
Australia and New Zealand are co-hosting the Women's World Cup next year.
Also through to the semifinals are defending champion Japan, which trounced Thailand 7-0 in their own quarterfinal match. They play China, who won 3-1 against Vietnam.
After Australia was ousted in the quarters by South Korea, the three losing quarterfinalists will figure in a single round-robin playoff repechage, where the best team after three matches will secure a World Cup berth.
The two losing teams will advance to the inter-confederation playoffs, scheduled for February 2023.