BANGKOK, Thailand – The Philippine national men’s football team may have already qualified for the semifinals of the 2012 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup, but coach Hans Michael Weiss still faces a major problem: the availability of the Azkals’ foreign-based players for the final four.
Of the 22 players who are included in the final lineup of the Azkals in the tournament, Rob Gier, Dennis Cagara, Angel Guirado, Jerry Lucena, Chris Greatwich, Paul Mulders, Ray Jonsson, and Roland Mueller, who has not joined the team in the tournament, play abroad. Weiss said that some of them were cleared by their clubs just for the Azkals’ three matches in the group stages.
“We have all the things in plan. We were first planning for the first three matches,” Weiss said. “We now have to start again to negotiate with the clubs.
“There’s a possibility that all of them will not be available.”
Despite being hailed as the biggest football competition in Southeast Asia, the Suzuki Cup does not fall on international match dates set by world governing body FIFA, which means that clubs are not obliged to release their players for the tournament.
Lucena, who Weiss considers as the Azkals’ most important player, had to leave the team last Wednesday to return to his club in Denmark and could make his return in the second leg of the semifinals slated on December 12.
Weiss said that he is already grateful that some players were cleared by their clubs for the tournament given that their respective seasons are still on going.
“We don’t wanna demand too much from the clubs. It wasn’t easy for them to come in the middle of the season and let them go,” he said.
Despite that, Weiss believes that even without the foreign-based talent, the remaining players in the lineup will step up to help the Azkals propel to success.
The Azkals will start their semifinals campaign on December 8 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.