Under-23 Azkals coach not giving up the fight despite back-to-back SEA Games losses

SINGAPORE - Despite back-to-back losses to start off its campaign in the 28th Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine Under-23 men’s football team isn’t giving up hope about its medal bid.

National coach Marlon Maro remains optimistic about the Filipino booters’ chances notwithstanding their 3-1 defeat at the hands of Cambodia Wednesday night.

Maro noted how the team played well in the second half, but just couldn’t complete its chances before Chan Vathanaka ended their hopes by scoring the insurance goal for Cambodia in the 81st minute.

“We played a very poor first half and a very good second half. We have to play strong for 90 minutes. If we had finished things off with the chances that we had, we could have at least one point tonight,” Maro said.

But the chances of the Philippines advancing to the next round are getting slimmer. Only the top two teams from each of the two groups will advance to the semifinals.

So far though, the race for the top two spots in the group where the Philippines belongs remains wide open with Myanmar, Cambodia, and Singapore sharing the top spot with three points each as of posting time.

The Under-23 Azkals face Myanmar next on Sunday.

Midfielder Arnel Amita, however, will miss the match against Myanmar after being booked with a second yellow card late in the game versus Cambodia.

“We must win our last two matches against Myanmar and Indonesia, or we go home early,” said Maro.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports