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Azkals era about to end right on New Year as Stephan Schrock announces national team retirement

In a late New Year's Day fireworks, Stephan Schrock is calling it a career from Azkals duties. Jan Dayrit (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

PUERTO PRINCESA—A significant plot twist developed on the first day of 2023.

Stephan Schrock announced Sunday that he is calling it a career with the Philippine Azkals and that their Monday night match against Indonesia in the 2022-23 AFF Mitsubishi Electric Cup will be his swan song.

"In football, nothing is for sure, but 99 percent this would be my last game for the national team," Schrock said during the pre-match press conference at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila.

According to Schrock, he began pondering about retiring from international football when former Azkals coach Thomas Dooley left him out of the national team pool for the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers last year.

"Given that I was not selected in the AFC qualifiers, I think it's about time to step down and to enjoy the last 90 minutes of my Azkals career," Schrock further said.

The 36-year-old midfielder will play his 55th match in the first team spanning almost 12 years beginning in 2011 in the Azkals' 8:30 p.m. showdown against Indonesia.

Regardless of the result, the Azkals will not progress beyond the group stages after getting eliminated when Indonesia battled Thailand to a 1-1 draw on Thursday night in Jakarta.

However, the Azkals would want to give Schrock a fitting sendoff by denying Indonesia a shot at stealing the top seed in Group A from Thailand entering the semifinals.

"Obviously a sad moment for us that we're eliminated already, but there's always something to play for when you wear the national team jersey, and we wanna finish the tournament with a good performance and with a good result obviously," Schrock further said. "We want to at least duplicate our performance of what we've shown against Brunei."

It's uncertain if his club career will follow suit, although he remains listed as the playing assistant coach of the Azkals Development Team in the PFL even as his post-playing job is now set by founding the Azkals Development Academy.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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