Asian football

Azkals’ youngsters Reyes, Rasmussen pump life into AFF Championship campaign

Juro Morilla
Azkals’ youngsters Reyes, Rasmussen pump life into AFF Championship campaign

NEW BLOOD. Teenager Sandro Reyes (6) daps up veteran Stephan Schrock (17) as the Philippine Azkals blow out Brunei, 5-1, in Group A action of the 2022 AFF Championship

Philippine Football Federation

Young guns Sandro Reyes and Sebastian Rasmussen provide much-needed bite for the Philippine Azkals as they seized their breakthrough in the 2022 AFF Championship

MANILA, Philippines – In a highly important match against Brunei in the 2022 AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup, a couple of youngsters performed magnificently to power the Philippine Azkals to their first victory in the regional tournament.

After coming on as a substitute in the previous match versus Cambodia, 19-year-old Sandro Reyes finally got a crack at the starting 11 of newly appointed Philippines head coach Josep Ferré.

The teenager quickly repaid the faith given to him by Ferré as Reyes converted an audacious attempt near the penalty arc to give the Philippines a 2-0 lead inside the opening 12 minutes.

Azkals veteran Mark Hartmann threaded in a wonderfully placed through ball for Reyes and the latter dribbled his way towards the goal before unleashing a powerful left-footed shot to stun the visiting Brunei.

Reyes, who played in the central midfield with Hartmann and was supported by the free-roaming Stephan Schröck up front, shared that he greatly benefits from the presence of the two long-time senior players.

“Playing with Schröcky and Mark [Hartmann] really helps me and gives me more freedom to go up and Mark just stays a bit back,” he explained.

Furthermore, Reyes indicated that having them around fast-tracks their maturity as young professional footballers, “It’s a big step to the [seniors] men’s [team], but the senior guys help a lot so it’s a big help.”

Also exhibiting a scintillating outing versus Brunei was 20-year-old Sebastian Rasmussen, who came off the bench at halftime as he replaced forward Kenshiro Daniels.

Just like Reyes, Rasmussen immediately made an impact in the match as he provided an assist to Jesus Melliza at the 50-minute mark.

A minute later, Rasmussen finished the Azkals counter-attack with a left-footed shot just inside the penalty box to erect a 4-0 advantage for the home team.

“It was amazing, I didn’t even think about it to get so many minutes at halftime so it was just amazing to come in and help the team with two goals and one assist.”

Rasmussen credited the Filipino fans inside the Rizal Memorial Stadium and shared that it was his first time playing in the historic venue, “I was a bit nervous but when I scored the first goal and made an assist, it helped.”

The Denmark-born player then completed his brace at the 88th minute by sweeping home a left-footed shot in the middle of the penalty box.

“I can’t find any words for it, it’s just amazing,” said Rasmussen. 

He also expressed his gratitude to Ferré for the opportunity that he has given to the new breed of Azkals players, “I’m very happy for the coach because he gave us youngsters a chance to show what we can do and we just have to grab the chance.”

With their latest win, the Azkals now have 3 points and a +3 goal difference in Group A of the 2022 AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup.

The Philippines will battle Thailand next for their penultimate group stage match and Reyes expects to have their hands full against the “tough” defending champions.

“Thailand is a different, different animal compared to Brunei,” said the teenager.

Rasmussen, on the other hand, was confident in the team’s ability to pull off an upset if they maintain their ability to play at a high level.

“We know what we can do and we just have to show it again in the next match because if we work together, we are unstoppable.”

The Azkals will now be the visiting team in their next match as they visit and battle Thailand on Monday, December 26, 8:30 pm, at the Thammasat Stadium. – Rappler.com

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