The Philippines put on a gallant effort but it was not enough to avoid suffering a 3-0 defeat to South Korea Monday, Oct. 25 in the start of its campaign in the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup Qualifiers at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore.
Lee Kyu-Hyuk, Ko Jae-hyeon and Park Jeong-in all scored in the first half as the South Koreans took the full three points after withstanding a solid defensive stand by the Young Azkals.
South Korea, which won the last edition of the U-23 Asian Cup in 2020, took the early lead in Group H followed by host Singapore and Timor-Leste which settled for a 1-1 draw.
Coach Scott Cooper commended the effort of his team but conceded that South Korea was just too good.
“It’s one of those games when you’re playing,” Cooper said. “We were lucky at halftime to be 0-0, so we wanted to build on that and hang in there and maybe we can form a surprise.
“But they were just too strong and too physical. They’re not U-23 champions for nothing, they have a lot of players from K1 and K2 Leagues (Korean first and second division leagues). It was a tough task,” added Cooper.
Cooper and his Young Azkals cannot afford to lose another match when they face Singapore Thursday night at the same venue.
The top team and possibly the second-placer in the group will advance to next year’s U-23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan.
“If someone would’ve told me at halftime that we can hold them (South Korea) at 0-0, I would’ve taken it,” said Cooper.
“It was a tough first game to have. We were lucky to have faced them first because it’s a good learning curve for the players.”