Azkals gun for s’final berth without Lucena


BANGKOK—The results were favorable to the Philippines in the AFF Suzuki Cup Tuesday night, but the euphoria was tempered by the departure of midfielder Jerry Lucena from the tournament here.

Host Thailand’s 4-0 walloping of Myanmar at the Rajamangala Stadium gave the inspired Azkals the inside track on the remaining semifinal spot with one playdate remaining in Group A.

The Azkals enhanced their chances after stunning Vietnam, 1-0, on a late strike from Chieffy Caligdong.

But the Azkals absorbed a blow later in the night after Lucena was recalled by Danish first division club Esjberg for the weekend, which meant that he will not be available for the crucial showdown with Myanmar tomorrow.

“I’m happy for the win but sad that I’m leaving,” said Lucena, who flew out of the Thai capital Wednesday morning. “I’m confident that the team will reach the semifinals without me.”

Azkals manager Dan Palami and coach Michael Weiss were burning the lines up until the wee hours of Wednesday morning appealing to Esjberg for Lucena to stay only to be turned down.

Palami said Lucena, who would have missed three matches for his club had he stayed with the national team here, could be available if the Azkals make the semifinals.

“Honestly, he will be a big loss,” said defender Rob Gier, who captained the Azkals for the first time in the win against Vietnam.

“You don’t really know he’s in the game but the amount of work he puts in cannot be measured because he’s just so invaluable to the team.”

Lucena’s absence could mean an opportunity for the likes of 2010 Suzuki Cup standout Chris Greatwich and the versatile Carli de Murga to finally get some playing time. Another option is the youthful Marwin Angeles, who came on as a substitute in the 1-2 loss to Thailand Saturday.

With its second straight victory, Thailand clinched the first semifinal spot in the group with the Philippines, Vietnam and Myanmar all in contention for the second semifinal berth.

Despite raving about their big win over Vietnam, the Azkals know their task of making the semifinals and bring the Suzuki Cup to Manila is far from finished.

“I thought our team was absolutely magnificent (against Vietnam),” Gier said. “Our chances just improved but we’re in no means through to the semifinals. It’s not a given that we’re going to win (against Myanmar).”

A victory against the Burmese side on Friday will seal qualification to the next round for the Azkals. But a draw might also be enough if Thailand gets at least a draw against Vietnam.

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  • Yxon

    good luck Azkals. our prayers are with you.

  • Maharlika2

    Go, Go, Go Azkals!!!

  • millie55

    they are under contract they cannot break. lahat ng players ng kalaban play for clubs in their country and in other countries. naka lisensya lang sila para maka laro sa nt nila.

  • Butch Po

    We have to win to make sure of going to next round of the tournament… Go.. Go…Go.. AZKALS……… 

  • Jonathan Otida

    even here in our very own country ganon din pag ayaw ng ball club wala, diba ganoon sa PBA buti pa nga itong PFF ung champinship nila inilipat sa ibang araw mabigyan lang ng panahon ung laban nila sa Bangkok at kahit papaano ibinigay nila ang puso nila sa laban kisa 100% pinoy nasa pera naman ang ipinaglalaban takot ma injury bka dina ma renew o baka magasgasan ang mukha mawalan ng endorsement sila makita mo lumaban binigay nila puso nila sapagkat ang pagiging pilipino ay nasa puso wala sa dugo. 

  • CmdrAdobo

    Thanks Jerry your presence, even it was short, was very helpful
    I am very impressed with Azkal players commitment to play for our National Team. 

    Mabuhay kayog lahat.

  • Job Lukas Veloso

    Being the captain of Esjberg does need certain commitments.

  • Garth Dax

    I agree! it’s all about the pay. i believe we have to have our own grassroot development program and not always rely with fil. foreign player/s only to be recalled at any crucial point in the tournaments.

  • Noel

    That’s the problem with hiring foreign players who have commitment with their clubs abroad.  But then, we can never match the pay they receive from foreign clubs.

    • HRK1

      Just a clarification for your information:

      Club football is the bread and butter of pro footballers (whether you like it or not, playing for country is only an extra previlige).


      Lionel Messi (from Argentina plays for Barcelona FC) and Cristiano Ronaldo (from Portugal plays for Real Madrid FC).

      Both players are on multi-million dollar contracts for their clubs, plus endorsements. Do you know how much they earn playing for their countries? Well, these kind of players only get free airfares, food and accommodation when they are playing for their countries – plus bonuses if they do well in tournaments. Hence, clubs have vested interest in keeping their “investments” healthy and they actually have liaison officers that will assess the player availability (ie considering their mother’s countries health system – in case of injury, how far it is to travel, the climate that can impact on their players…note: football in europe is during the winter months, etc etc)……this is the package deal of being a pro footballers.

      Their clubs can release these players when their mother countries are playing on FIFA sanctioned and Olympic sanctioned games. Unfortunately, SEA games and AFF games does not fall under this ruling. Hence, the club can veto to release their players or not.

      Using local players – yes, most countries do prefer having grassroots. But then again, Europe offers higher pay.

      Do you think if a local PBA player get a chance to play in the NBA (what a miracle!!), do you think he will stay in PBA or go to NBA? Even Brazil have all their players playing in Europe, they to need to return to their mother country, they to still need permission from their club to travel home.

      Actually, we have more UFL players in this squad in comparison to 2010 squad.

      Foreign player? – most of our team members were born abroad, but they are not foreigners. Because they have pinay mothers. Does Marcus Douthit have a pinoy father and pinay mother? In my books, half-pinoy is still more pinoy than Marcus Douthit (who is a nigger…he only became naturalise because of the millions PBA paid him to convert….do you really think an American will willingly become a third-world pinoy citizen…when millions of pinoys will do whatever it takes to get a US greencard?)

      • Marvin aquino

        …Nigger…thats racesssssssssssss

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