Chandler McDaniel's long-awaited debut for the Philippines proved to be an unforgettable one, as she played a major role in the Malditas' come-from-behind win over Nepal in their first game of the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 qualifiers.
McDaniel, who traces her roots to Pampanga and Davao City through her mother, started for coach Marlon Maro against Nepal on Saturday afternoon in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. It was her first cap for the Philippines after having been on the national team's radar for several years now.
The Filipinas, ranked 68th by FIFA, were widely favored against the 101st-ranked Nepal but it appeared a major upset was on the horizon when Bimala Chaudhary put Nepal ahead in the 10th minute, heading in a cross from Sabita Rana Magar.
The Philippines pressed forward in search of an equalizer, with McDaniel herself testing the Nepalese defense repeatedly. Still, it took until the 90th minute until they got a deserved breakthrough.
McDaniel, who played collegiate football for University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, lofted a cross that was guided in by Tahnai Annis.
"Tahnai's goal was very uplifting, because it was 90 minutes in, we were chasing the whole game. So definitely, it was very frustrating but very relieving to get the goal," said the 23-year-old McDaniel.
Two minutes later, the Filipinas completed the comeback when Cam Rodriguez sent a cross of her own into the box. With three defenders converging on her, McDaniel flicked the ball to Camille Wilson who fired the match-winner.
"We just kept pressing and Cam sent in the cross, and I tried to score it, but you know, it's okay, 'cause I ended up flicking it to Camille who was wide open," said McDaniel. "Luckily, all of the defenders seemed to go towards me."
It was a hard-earned result for the Malditas who moved a step closer towards qualifying for the Asian Cup in India in 2022, which would be their second straight participation in the event.
McDaniel, whose older sister Olivia is a reserve 'keeper for the Malditas and younger brother Griffin is signed to Stallion FC, said their result against Nepal made for "one of the best moments of my life."
"I think that it was just all so surreal," she added. "I think that it was really cool to have all those people, like, look at me to try to score."
"I'm glad that I was able to help the team out, and I'm glad that my other teammates were there to finish it," she added.
The Malditas return to action on Friday against Hong Kong, with another win assuring them of victory in Group F and securing their berth to the Asian Cup.