U-23 Azkals face Myanmar with hopes of topping group intact

THE Philippine Under-23 (U-23) Azkals remain on track to top Group A at the 31st Southeast Asian Games with a win against Myanmar on Tuesday, after pulling off a stunning scoreless draw against defending champion and host Vietnam on Sunday night.

Goalkeeper Quincy Kammeraad led a resolute defensive effort as the underdog Filipinos forced the favored home team to miss shots and half-chances en route to splitting the points in front of a capacity crowd at the Viet Tri Stadium in Phu Tho Province.

The result, which followed a 4-0 thrashing of Timor-Leste on opening night, pushed the U-23 Azkals to the top of Group A with a 1-1-0 win-draw-loss card, ahead of the fellow four-pointer Vietnamese on goal difference.

Myanmar (three points on 1-0-0) is running third followed by winless Indonesia (0-0-1) and Timor-Leste (0-0-2) in the chase for the Top 2 group positions, which are tickets  to the next round.

  “Our objective is to enter the semifinals so this draw is a big thing for us,” said coach Norman Fegidero after his side took the point from Vietnam, to the delight of fellow members of Team Philippines in Hanoi and countrymen back home.

“I think everybody that started and came on put in a massive shift, doing a lot of dirty runs, defending, pressing and putting miles in,” said the Fil-Dutch keeper Mr. Kammeraad.

“We’re taking it one game at a time so we’re not looking past Myanmar,” said Mr. Kammeraad. “The ball is basically in our court now. We just have to get the three points and from there we’ll see what will happen in the last game (against Indonesia on Friday).”

The booters are chasing their first Final Four appearance since the 1991 edition in Manila and eventually a breakthrough medal at the Games. Three years ago at home, the squad narrowly missed a place in the semis. — Olmin Leyba