MANILA - The young Azkals who will compete in the AFF Under-23 Championship 2022 are in good spirits heading into the competition, according to coach Stewart Hall.
The team, bannered by midfielders Oliver Bias and Sandro Reyes, and goal-keeper Quincy Kammeraad, held a closed-circuit training camp at the PFF National Training Center in Carmona, Cavite from January 24 to February 3.
They then proceeded to the tournament venue in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where they linked up with members of the Under-23 team who are based abroad.
"Three weeks of preparation is not enough. With the whole squad, it's only been sort of like, it will be 10 days between arrival and the first game," Hall acknowledged on Sunday. "But the players have worked really hard."
"I'm really pleased with the way the players have approached it," he added.
One source of inspiration for the young Azkals are the Philippine women's national football team, who recently made history for the country in the AFC Women's Asian Cup 2022 in India.
The Filipinas, ranked 64th in the world, became one of the stories of the tournament as they made it all the way to the semifinals, in the process securing a spot in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023 in New Zealand/Australia.
"Everybody is in a good frame of mind because of the women's team, because of what they've just achieved," Hall noted. "I'll tell you, the boys here, they really, really wanna do well, and that's good for us, that's good for the Philippines."
The Filipinas pulled off a shocker against Thailand in their first game then put up a tough challenge against Australia, before routing Indonesia en route to the quarterfinals. There, they pulled off a 4-3 victory against Chinese Taipei in a thrilling penalty shootout to book a spot in next year's FIFA Women's World Cup.
"Collectively, I've said, after the success of the girls, let's at least get out of the group stage, let's push into the semifinal places, and then who knows what can happen?" said Hall of their team goals.
"And I'll say, and I'll keep saying, attitude has been fantastic in training. So, I think the early signs are that they're hungry, and they wanna make a name for themselves," he added.
The young Azkals are grouped with hosts Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and Brunei Darussalam in Group A. They open their campaign on Monday afternoon against Timor-Leste at the Morodok Techo National Stadium.
The top team from the three groups, as well as the best second-placed team, will advance to the semifinals.