MANILA, Philippines – After 11 colorful years playing for the Philippine Azkals, Stephan Schröck feels ready to step away from the international scene.
“As you know on football, nothing is for sure, but 99% this will be my last game,” said Schröck ahead of the Azkals and Indonesia match in the 2022 AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup.
Schröck and the Azkals will play their last match in the biennial regional tournament versus the Indonesians on Monday, January 2, 8:30 pm, at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.
“Coming 11 years for the national team, it’s quite emotional for me,” added the outgoing Azkals team captain.
Schröck then looked back and shared all the sacrifices he made throughout the years.
“Not many know what I had to sacrifice, how many million euro contracts I jeopardized to come out for the national team, how many moments I missed out with my family,” he said.
“I have three children, tomorrow, my youngest daughter will turn one. I missed all birthdays of the kids, all first birthdays for the national team. I moved weddings for the national team, I couldn’t attend honeymoon for the national team.”
Schröck said he feels it’s a “good time to step down.”
“I left family sick and with COVID at home to come to the national team so I sacrificed a lot and it comes to a time where you want to have it in your own hands,” he said. “Kinda like given that I wasn’t selected in the AFC qualifiers, so I think it’s a good time to step down and to enjoy the last 90 minutes of my Azkals career.”
Unfortunately for the veteran midfielder, Schröck will have to absorb a second consecutive group stage exit in the tournament after Indonesia held Thailand to a 1-1 draw on December 29.
Indonesia’s result dashed the Azkals’ hopes of securing a semifinal slot as only the top two teams in each group will proceed to the next phase.
The Philippines currently ranks fourth with 3 points and a -1 goal difference following the heartbreaking defeats to Cambodia and Thailand last month.
Despite falling short of clinching a semifinal slot in this year’s tourney, Schröck said his level of play will remain high as he approaches his final moments in an Azkals kit.
“In the past 11 years, whenever I was called up and whenever I was able to convince the club in Europe to let me go, that I always played my heart out, that I always showed up in the best possible shape even if it’s off-season, during the season,” he said.
“With lots of games, little games, I always try to come here to deliver my best performance and in some games it goes better and in some games it doesn’t.”
“What I can tell you is that I always play my heart out and always put the effort that is necessary to represent the country and that’s what I’m gonna do tomorrow in my last game as well,” Schröck added.
Azkals head coach Josep Ferré praised the 36-year-old Schröck for his dedication to the national team.
“He’s always trying to train at his highest level so I didn’t expect to have a player like with his experience and with his background, with this level of commitment with the team not only behind the training or just in the organization,” said Ferré.
“He doesn’t train like a senior or an experienced player, he trains like a player who came from the academy who wants to show something, so I used this time to say thank you to Schröcky.”
“You have a player here that shows a very good image to all the future players in the country,” Ferré added.
Both Thailand and Indonesia are tied at the pinnacle of Group A with 7 points apiece, but the Thais hold the edge with a superior goal difference at +9, while the Indonesians stand closely behind with a +8 goal difference.
Cambodia is the only team in Group A with a chance to sneak into the semis at third with 6 points and a +4 goal difference.
Completing the list of participating teams in Group A is Brunei, which bowed out winless with a -22 goal difference and no single point. – Rappler.com