The Philippines may have seen the best and worst scenario when a young team represents the country in a prestigious football tournament like the Southeast Asian Games at home.
Reinforced by senior players Stephan Schrock and Amani Aguinaldo, the Under-22 Azkals got off to a nervy start against Cambodia before putting up a spirited second-half display in a 1-1 stalemate that forged a four-team tie with Malaysia and Myanmar in Group A.
“The buildup to the match was good and we were well-prepared, but we were a bit shaky at the start,” said 17-year-old attacking midfielder Yrik Gallantes, who assisted on the 18-year-old Dennis Chung’s goal in the 93rd minute.
“For young players and new teams, it usually happens. Some of the players were really nervous because everyone wanted to win, especially for the fans,” added Gallantes, whose Scotland-based parents hail from Cavite and Parañaque.
The Young Azkals have their work cut out for them as they seek their first win against Myanmar at 4 p.m. on Wednesday at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Schrock, who captained the side against Cambodia in front of close to 3,000 fans, said the result and the way it was fashioned out by the team will only forge a stronger bond among the players that will come in handy as they tackle tougher challenges in the tournament.
The Young Azkals are aiming to make the semifinals for the first time in the history of the tournament now reserved for Under-22 players with two over-aged reinforcements.
“This is the type of result that brings teams together,” said Schrock. “We will definitely work out a plan. It’s about me and Amani (Aguinaldo) adjusting with the team. We’ve been a full team only for a few days so expect us to get better.”
Gallantes promised an improved showing as the team continues to play together.
Meanwhile, Indonesia stunned defending champion Thailand, 2-0, thanks to goals from Egy Vikri and Osvaldo Haay in Group B at Rizal Memorial Stadium.