PH eyeing breakthrough campaign in SEAG men's football

For the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine football team's ambitious goal is to make history.

Since the SEA Games turned the men's football competition into an under-22 tournament in 2001, the Philippines has yet to escape the group phase, including the time when the Philippines last hosted the biennial meet in 2005, and introduced the Younghusband brothers as future Azkals.

But with a lineup boosted with foreign based players and the inclusion of Azkals veterans Stephan Schrock and Amani Aguinaldo as the designated overaged players, the young Filipinos dare to dream.

"Our bare minimum is probably getting out of the group stage," 18-year old winger Yrik Gallantes said. "We want to make history here, especially because it's in the Philippines. Obviously we want to make the podium, but we will have to see."

Here is the complete roster for the Philippines in the SEA Games men's football tournament:

  • Anthony Pinthus - Kosova Zurich (Switzerland)

  • Michael Asong - San Beda University

  • Amani Aguinaldo (23+) - PKNP FC (Malaysia)

  • Justin Baas - AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands)

  • Elias Mordal Suerti - Brattvag IL (Norway)

  • Mar Diano - Mendiola FC 1991

  • Marco Casambre - Chainat Hornbill FC (Thailand)

  • Jordan Jarvis - Resources Capital FC (Hong Kong)

  • Griffin McDaniel - California Baptist University (USA)

  • Stephan Schrock (23+) - Ceres-Negros FC

  • Christian Rontini - Sangiovanesse FA (Italy)

  • Yrik Gallantes - Gala Fairydean Rovers (on loan from Hibernian) (Scotland)

  • Pocholo Bugas - Far Eastern University

  • Jerome Marzan - Mendiola FC 1991

  • Dylan De Bruycker - Ceres-Negros FC

  • Dennis Chung - Zehlendorf (Germany)

  • Troy Limbo - Sunderland RCA (England)

  • Chima Uzoka - Global Makati FC

Gallantes, who typically plies his trade with Hibernian in Scotland, is one of 11 players who plays for a club outside the country. The Scotland-based footballer, alongside Justin Baas from AZ Alkmaar in the Netherlands, was also part of the senior squad that competed in the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against the Maldives and Syria.

Gallantes believes that their experience, despite their young age compared to their teammates, could make a difference for the Philippines.

"Obviously, it's all about experience and I have experienced more things than the people in the 22s, which I can obviously help them with," Gallantes said. "The age for me really does not matter, it's just more for me is the experience."

Experience could be a key difference maker for the Philippines in this iteration of the SEA Games, especially with senior team captain Stephan Schrock driving the team on from the midfield.

"(Having Schrock in the team) will definitely help us a lot because it adds a lot more experience," Gallantes said. "His leadership will help us quite a lot."

The Philippines will need all the experience they can get to escape Group A of the men's football tournament. The young Filipinos will have to navigate a field against perennial contender Malaysia, a tough Myanmar side, and dangerous teams from Cambodia, and Timor Leste.

Despite being drawn in the easier group, and avoiding regional powerhouses Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Singapore, there is still no room for error for the Philippines. Especially since only the top-two teams will advance to the semi-finals.

The Philippines opens their SEA Games campaign against Cambodia at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium on Monday at 8 p.m.