Booters kick off PH campaign in Phnom Penh
The Philippine men’s U-22 football team, based on the group in landed on, may have a good chance of qualifying for the semifinals. But coach Rob Gier knows that getting there is something that can never be determined on paper.
“I think it’s a good group for us,” Gier said as the team faces Indonesia to kick off Team Philippines’ campaign in the 32nd Cambodia Southeast Asian Games Saturday at National Olympic Stadium in the capital of Phnom Penh.
“But that doesn’t go to say that teams in our group are gonna be easy by any means.”
Impressions are that Gier and the Young Azkals see themselves in a chase for the top semifinal slots in Group A as a toss-up, given the quality opponents they’ll face.
Also in the group are host Cambodia and Myanmar, teams that the Philippines can get a result and perennial minnow Timor-Leste.
Recent meetings have seen the Philippines taking a 2-0 win over Cambodia in the 2017 edition held in Malaysia and a 1-1 draw in Manila two years later on a late goal from Dennis Chung.
There’s major expectation for Cambodia to compete for a medal, obviously given that it will play in front of its home fans at the 50,000-seat venue who could provide for a raucous environment for the young Filipinos.
But the Philippines has lost the last three meetings to Myanmar—2015 in Singapore, 2019 in Manila and last year in Vietnam and the Filipinos are obviously shooting to snap that skid.
“It comes with a little bit more pressure to make sure we get out of that group,” said Gier as the Philippines seeks a first semis berth since the 1991 Manila Games.
Gier is no stranger to the local football scene, having been a part of the Philippine Azkals’ stunning upset of Vietnam in the group stage of the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup before retiring in 2016.