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2021 SEA Games

Schrock believes Azkals U23 well-prepared for SEAG

The Philippine Azkals’ Under-23 squad targets that elusive podium finish once again as it gears up to compete in the 31st Southeast Asian Games hosted by Vietnam.

After disappointing campaigns in the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup qualification tourney and the 2022 AFF U-23 Championship, the Azkals U-23 hope that things will be different this time around.

“Our approach is one game at a time,” said head coach Norman Fegidero who was a member of the 1991 side that reached the final four of the competition. “Of course, the first objective is to be in the semi-finals. Regarding my players, I’m very happy to have Schrocky on the team, also Oskari Kekkonen.

“I know [Stephan] Schrocky is a big help to the team because he can lead the boys to reach our objective in the SEA Games.”

Stephan Schrock, who captained the nation on home soil in the previous edition of the biennial competition, is raring to go. The last time around, the Filipinos missed out on a semi-finals ticket by goal difference to Cambodia, which scored one more goal in its group stage games.

This will be the second straight SEA Games duty for Schrock. His experience throughout the years in various professional and international tournaments and matches will no doubt be vital for his younger teammates as they deal with the pressures of competing in the regional event.

“The team is well prepared,” said the erstwhile Ceres-Negros star. “It looks very solid. It looks very good in what we’re doing. I was positively surprised when I joined the team. I enjoyed the training. I enjoyed the sessions and the input.

“It is everything set from the coach for us to win the games and to prepare for what is coming for us in this group stage. It’s a very tight schedule. It’s a very tough competition for us,” he added.

“But as I said, I enjoy the coaching, I enjoy the staff around him. I’m feeling very happy here. I feel very, very welcome and the team and the coaching do their part for that.”

Similar to Schrock, Kekkonen hopes that things will be different this time around. After facing disappointments in the team’s past campaigns as well as the most recent AFF Suzuki Cup hosted by Singapore, the only way to go is up.

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Lessons were learned throughout all of those setbacks. With so much at stake, the 22-year-old midfielder hopes that he can help bring glory to the country before he graduates to the senior level.

“Of course, it’s a really tough group,” said Kekkonen. “We have four really strong opponents in our group. As Coach Norman said, we’re really taking it one game at a time. We recognize we have four big finals in the coming days.

“For our game, I think we’re really solid at the defense and I think we can really hurt the teams on the attack as well. As I said, it’s a really exciting team.”

Locked in Group A, the Azkals U-23 commences their 31st SEA Games campaign when they take on Timor Leste U23 on Friday at 5:00 PM at the Viet Tri Stadium in Vietnam. They will then face their under-23 counterparts from Vietnam, Myanmar, and Indonesia in the coming days.

Written By

Lorenzo's a frustrated author who knows a thing or two about Football and Basketball. Went all green from Ortigas to Taft. Supports Liverpool FC, FC Bayern Munich and the Alaska Aces

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