The Azkals U-22 team dream to make it to the semifinals of the men’s football tournament of the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is still alive after showing thrilling performance at the beginning of the tournament last November 25th at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
Despite the food, transportation and hotel accommodation problems and unfinished venue the participating teams encounter, the competition continues with the Azkals U-22 first assignment is against Cambodia that ended in 1-1.
Keo Sokpheng scored in the 41st minute to draw the first blood for Cambodia but the Azkals found the way to salvage the match after Dennis Chung struck during the stoppage time, resulting in both teams to share a point.
“He’s done his job. He did great. He scored the goal nicely,” said Azkals U-22 coach Goran Milojevic via Spin.PH on Chung.
“We played very well. In my opinion, we’re close to win the match against a very competitive,” Milesovic added on their performance against the Cambodian team. “To be honest, last time the team is losing easily to Cambodia but today we are proud because we are much better than them.”
Chung meanwhile is focused on his national team debut, telling ABS-CBN Sports: “Actually, I didn’t hear anything, I was so focused on the game. It’s my debut, that’s why.”
The 18-year-old Filipino-Chinese born in Germany that currently playing for Hertha Zehlendorf Youth team added: “Honestly, I didn’t imagine that I would score the tying goal, but I’m so happy.”
But the Azkals U-22 suffered their first defeat in the tournament in a 2-1 loss against Myanmar two days later.
Aung Kaung Mann and Win Naing Tun found the back of the net for the Asian Lions in 17th and 79th minutes respectively. Justin Baas scored for the Philippines in the injury time before half time but the home team failed to convert any goals in the second half.
“It’s not easy to lose the game this way,” said Azkals U-22 coach Milojevic in another Spin.PH article about the match . “We played excellent in the second half. We had many chances and kept the ball (on our side). The much better team play in the second half.”
It’s a bittersweet moment for Baas, who scored his first goal wearing an Azkals uniform in front of his family but ended on the different side of the story with a sorry loss against Myanmar.
“I was able to shoot and score, and it was a good goal,” Baas said via ABS-CBN Sports. “Of course, I was very emotional, my mother was in the stands, my grandmother, my family, everyone was there, so I was very happy with my first goal, of course, but also disappointed with the result.”
The biggest win of the tournament so far for the Azkals U-22 is against 2017 SEA Games silver medalist and six-time gold medalist Malaysia via 1-0 decision last November 29th with Stephan Schrock, scored in the 72nd minute from a corner kick to give the host country its first win in the tournament.
‘’We’re very happy. We put ourselves in a situation where we can advance (to the semifinals),” Schrock, who is playing in the tournament as one of the two overage players allowed to be enlisted in every squad, quoted in another article of Spin.PH said. “That was the goal and we’re very proud of the result.”
The Azkals U-22 team tallied four points in Group A, tying Cambodia while Myanmar occupied the first spot in seven points, which assured themselves a slot in the semifinals.
Timor Leste will be the Azkals U-22 last assignment in the group stage on December 4th at the Binan Football Stadium in Binan, Laguna and making it to the semifinals will also depends on game results of Cambodia and Malaysia, which had two remaining games each in their schedule.