KAOHSIUNG—The vital roles played by Under-23 standouts in the Philippine Azkals’ second place finish in the Long Teng Cup should augur well for the country’s bid for a first medal in men’s football in the Southeast Asian Games.
SEA Games-bound players Roland Muller, Jeff Christiaens, Neckson Leonora and Carli De Murga all made their senior debuts for the Azkals in the four-nation tournament won by Hong Kong Tuesday night.
“It’s a good sign that the Under-23 players can cope with the pressure of playing against senior teams of other countries, even if they are not at the level of the SEA Games teams,” said Dan Palami, who also manages the Under-23 team.
The Azkals blanked Macau, 2-0, after drawing with Hong Kong (3-3) and Chinese-Taipei (0-0) in the Long Teng Cup.
Chieffy Caligdong sparkled for the Azkals with four goals in the tournament that brought his international total to six goals for the year and 14 in his career.
Caligdong, who shrugged off injuries to score both goals against Macau, emerged the top scorer for the tournament, earning the Golden Boot trophy.
“Chieffy has been very consistent in this campaign. He just comes out and proves that you can count on him,” said Palami, who said the positives from the campaign have cushioned the impact of not winning the tournament.
“We would have wanted to win, but if you put things in the proper perspective, there are so many positives in this campaign,” said Palami.