Azkals skipper reinforces U-22 in breakthrough bid

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Azkals skipper Stephan Schrock may reinforce the Philippine Under-22 team that’s gunning for breakthrough on home soil in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in November.

SEAG football competitions allow a maximum of two overaged players and the Fil-German dynamo has offered his services to the U-22 squad targetting its first-ever Final Four appearance.

“We’ll check who would complement the players who are there but ‘Schroecky’ has expressed his intention to be a part of that U-22 team as an overaged player,” said Azkals team manager Dan Palami, who’s been tasked to prepare the team for the Nov. 26-Dec. 10 SEAG bootfest.

From the Azkals crew that battled China to a gutsy 0-0 draw in the Fifa World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Joint Qualifiers come three U-22 players in  Fil-Dutch Justin Baas, Fil-Scottish Yrick Gallantes, and Fil-Norwegian Edison Suerti, who are all expected to play big roles for Team Philippines.

“We have 30 players in the (U-22) pool now, including foreign-based and three players with the seniors team (Baas, Gallantes and Suerti),” said Palami.

The hosts’ road to SEAG relevance got a boost when they avoided landing in the Group of Death during the recent draw. The Filipinos got drawn with Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Timor Leste in Group A, leaving defending champion Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore and Brunei in a death battle in the other group.

“We’ve never reached the semifinal round so that’s the target right now. And I think the draw somehow gives us the chance,” said Palami.

“But we’re not being complacent, we’ll be preparing as hard and as well as the seniors team (Azkals). We’ve actually run a simultaneous camp with the Azkals and U-22 and we’ve got good results so far,” he added, particularly proud of U-22’s performance in a friendly against an all-African side in Biñan recently.

Phl U-22, which has been training since July under Azkals coaches Goran Milojevic and Scott Cooper, is slated to play in the Philippine Football League’s Cup tournament.

“We’ll be competing in the Cup, that will be part of the preparations; by that time, we’ll have three or four games going to the SEA Games,” he said.


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