MANILA, Philippines – It was a heartbreaking end to Stephan Schröck’s international career as the Philippine Azkals yielded to Indonesia, 2-1, to end their campaign in the AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup on Monday, January 2, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
“It was an emotional day for me and I’m not gonna lie, I pre-cried already so I’m stable now, so that’s why I just let it sink in everything and I’m just grateful for the last 11 years,” said Schröck.
“I hope some of you enjoyed me also a bit and I’d like to say thank you to everyone who has been part of my journey.”
Schröck, who announced his decision a day before the match, walks away from the international scene with a defeat after donning the Azkals kit 57 times.
With the loss, the Azkals bowed out at fourth place in Group A with 3 points and -2 goal difference.
It marked the ninth time in 13 appearances that the Filipinos exited the regional biennial tournament at the group stage. It was also the second consecutive edition the team failed to reach the semifinal round.
Indonesia opened the scoring with Dendy Sulistyawan slotting in a goal at the 21st minute after he accurately headed in Pratama Arhan’s long throw near the left corner flag.
Marselino Ferdinan Philipus then doubled Indonesia’s advantage at the 43’ mark as he drilled in a right-footed shot inside the penalty box following a quick one-two with Saddil Ramdani.
The Philippines grabbed a consolation goal at the 83rd minute after second-half substitute Sebastian Rasmussen powered a header past Indonesian goalkeeper Nadeo Arga Winata.
It was Rasmussen’s third goal of the tournament, but he and his teammates couldn’t find the back of the net once more as they fell to the Indonesians.
“Obviously we wanted to win for our last group stage game before we finish this tournament, I think we gave a good fight,” said Schröck.
The 36-year-old captain also praised the young Azkals that he played with in his final match.
“I just have nothing but respect for everyone who showed up, prepared, motivated, and with passion, and committed,” he said.
“Obviously, football is a result thing and a performance thing, but you will not understand the troubles the players went through, all of the players.”
“You have to give credit to them and we have a bright future with the young ones – very, very promising players and I wish them all the best,” Schröck added.
Despite bidding farewell, Schröck said he’s still willing to assist the players in any way possible.
“I hope I can help them. If ever someone has a question, I will reach out every time and I’ll be there for them,” he said.
Schröck noted the importance of having young players as their exposure will surely benefit the team in the future.
“It’s a good move, a very smart move from the federation and from the management that we started the transition now,” he said.
“We will not see immediate results in this tournament, but this is a long term concept and it was necessary to do so and we will see results in the near future. Just be patient.”
Indonesia finished second to Thailand in Group A, with both toting 10 points but the Thais claimed the top spot due to a superior goal difference.
But both Thailand and Indonesia booked their ticket to the semifinals, which will begin on January 6, as only the top two teams in each group will advance.
Cambodia (6 points) and Brunei (0 point) bowed out along with the Philippines.
Group B pacesetters Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia, meanwhile, will try try to secure wins on Wednesday to claim the remaining semifinal seats. – Rappler.com