ITS CAMPAIGN in the 30th Southeast Asian Games might have ended abruptly but the Philippine men’s Under-22 team sees a lot of positives from its bid which it hopes to carry on and take cue from moving forward.

Fell short in their push to move to the championship rounds of the football competition in the biennial regional sporting meet after being edged out for the last semifinal spot in Group A, the Philippine team admits that it was tough but nonetheless views it as something that would only help the national squad in the long run.

The Young Azkals exploded for a 6-1 victory over Timor Leste in their final game in group play at the Biñan Football Stadium in Laguna on Wednesday but it was not enough to push them through.

The win went for naught as Cambodia defeated Malaysia, 3-1, in the other Group A match, sending the former to the next round.

The Young Azkals were hoping to beat Timor Leste and for the Cambodia-Malaysia game to end in a draw to advance to the semifinals.

At the end of group play, Cambodia and the Philippines finished with identical records of 2-1-1 and seven points each. But the Cambodians had a better goal difference of plus-6 to the Azkals plus-5, earning for them the spot in the next round.

“It was tough for us to fall out after winning 6-1. The boys were down and it’s difficult for us to understand it right now. But that’s football and we just have to reassess and come back,” said Stephan Schrock, one of the overage players of the team along with Amani Aguinaldo, after their SEA Games campaign ended.

But the men’s seniors team stalwart said the team has nothing to be ashamed of with the spirited showing it had in the competition just as he expressed his belief of a brighter future for the national team.

“You can be proud of the boys. Throughout the tournament they improved a lot. What they had in the tank they gave it all. I’m happy for the future of the Azkals because we have players here who are ready to die on the field for the country apart from having the skills. I think with our showing we changed the mindset of many people” added Mr. Schrock, who scored one of the six goals against Timor Leste.

The other goals were from Mr. Aguinaldo (hat trick), Mar Diano and Dylan de Bruycker.

For team manager Dan Palami, the U-22’s campaign was still a success despite the team not advancing to the semifinals.

“Congratulations go to the boys for a good tournament. We did not go through because of game difference. But I think the people saw this was a different team and the future is good. It is just the start of a continuous process,” said Mr. Palami.

Playing in the SEA Games football semifinals on Dec. 7 are Myanmar against Indonesia and Vietnam versus Cambodia. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo