Gerrit Holtmann's Philippines bow has been three years in the making -- but it certainly proved to be worth the wait as he struck a dramatic late winner on Saturday to hand them a crucial 1-0 win over Mongolia in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers.
Following Wednesday's 0-0 draw with Yemen in their opening Group B tie of the Asian Cup final-round qualifiers, the Azkals looked to be headed for another disappointing stalemate as they struggled to find a way past minnows Mongolia.
But in the third minute of injury time, Holtmann -- who currently plays for Bochum in the Bundesliga and has gained a reputation for his penchant for coming up with stunning goals -- proved why Philippines have been so eager to add him to their ranks.
Picking up possession on the edge of the box, the 27-year-old did enough to create a yard of space for himself before firing away a left-footed effort that arrowed through a sea of bodies into the bottom corner.
Having declared his intention to play for Philippines -- his mother's country of birth -- as early as 2019, the German-born Holtmann's quest to represent the Azkals was then met with several hurdles.
First, missing documents hindered his process to acquire Filipino citizenship, before he contracted coronavirus just as he was about to fly out to Southeast Asia for friendlies against Singapore and Malaysia in the FAS Tri-Nations Series earlier this year.
Having made their debut on Asian football's biggest stage back in 2019, Saturday's victory over Mongolia keeps the Azkals firmly in the running to qualify for a second consecutive Asian Cup ahead of their final match against Palestine on Tuesday.