Availability of overseas-based aces could haunt Azkals

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MANILA, Philippines — And old problem may come to haunt the Philippine national team when it vies in the AFF Suzuki Cup in Bangkok late this month.

But with preparations going well, there’s hope that the Azkals could at least match their semifinal finish two years ago.

While the availability of the overseas-based players remains up in the air, Azkals coach Michael Weiss believes he will have a squad strong enough to contend for the title in the prestigious tournament from Nov. 24 to 30.

Tournament dates don’t fall on the Fifa calendar for international matches, which means that clubs are not compelled to release players for national team duty.

Weiss revealed that the Indian league club of Angel Guirado has refused to release the Fil-Spanish forward, who received a team clearance when he signed a contract early this year.

The German coach said the Azkals could face the same problem with Europe-based Paul Mulders, Jerry Lucena, Dennis Cagara and goalkeepers Roland Muller and Neil Etheridge.

Stephan Schrock has been ruled out of the three group matches, but Weiss said he could be available if the Azkals reach the semifinals.

“These (overseas-based) players give us stability,” said Weiss, whose local-based crew includes Phil and James Younghusband, Denis Wolf, Patrick Reichelt, Misagh Bahadoran, Jeff Christiaens, Marwin Angeles, Matthew Uy, Jason Sabio and Anto Gonzales.

“This will be the problem for all the other players as well but it doesn’t mean they will not come,” added Weiss at the sendoff dinner Wednesday sponsored by Suzuki Philippines at Richmonde Hotel in Quezon City.

The Azkals wrap up their preparations for the Suzuki Cup with a friendly against Singapore in Cebu on Nov. 15 which is expected to be one of the basis for Weiss in selecting his final 22-man roster for the tournament.

Chris Greatwich, the hero in the 2010 Suzuki Cup, and Fil-Spanish defender Juani Guirado arrived Tuesday to link up with the side.

Suzuki Philippines president Satoshi Uchida wished the team well. “I hope they reach the semifinals again, so they will have a home game,” the Japanese executive said.

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