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Despite SEA Games exit, Young Azkals' future secured

The Young Azkals join Ultras Filipinas in chanting. Jan Dayrit
By Kevin Estrada

BINAN, Laguna -- "Sayang!"

That was all Amani Aguinaldo have mustered, after his hat trick against East Timor was not even enough as the SEA Games host nation exit at the group stage Wednesday evening here at the Stable.

However, their 6-1 hammering of the minnows was not all for naught, as their future is already secured beyond this edition, with the squad for the Junior Azkals set to be part of the senior set up that gears up for the upcoming wars ahead next year.

"Thank you for all those players who played with lion's heart," said Philippines boss Goran Milojevic after that final game in Group A, in which they know they have played more than what they have expected.

And with that, they are already looking forward to the next edition in Vietnam, as the Philippine Football Federation has tasked Dan Palami and company to scout for the best Filipino talent, with the entire ASEAN region already recognizing that they are the force to reckon with.

"It just shows that every game counts," Palami lamented with the result despite capping off their campaign with back-to-back wins, but they were pegged back due to goal difference.

On the flip side, he added that this squad was better than the most recent edition, in which it also scored two wins under Marlon Maro but had the unfortunate moment to be drawn with Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia who had powerhouse youth programs.

"I think everybody have saw how different this team is and how better prepared their were," he added, in which there are about a dozen players which will be available for 2021.

The exit might be tough for Stephan Schrock to handle, but it will be the guiding light to galvanize the Azkals after capping off their 2019, after he got the armband to open it in the country's Asian Cup debut.

"We can be very happy with the future of the next generation of Azkals," said the talismanic midfielder. "Because there is a lot of people willing to die for the country on the pitch."

Follow him on Twitter: @KevinLEstrada