Azkals wait for status of key starsBy Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THE PHILIPPINES faces an agonizing wait on the status of its key players four days before the first leg-AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal clash against Singapore at Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Striker Angel Guirado and leftback Dennis Cagara are still awaiting clearance from their clubs to rejoin the national side which made the semifinals for the second straight time and will be playing its first home game in the 16-year history of the tournament.
But the Azkals remain upbeat as they resumed preparations yesterday at the Ateneo pitch.
Azkals manager Dan Palami believes the squad has players ready to step up in the event that the trio will not be released by their clubs as the tournament does not fall in the Fifa international calendar.
Guirado returned to India to link up with Salgaocar FC last Saturday after scoring in the 2-0 win over Myanmar, while Cagara was also recalled by his third division club in Germany, Karlsruher.
Jerry Lucena is in Denmark, still with Esbjerg, and could rejoin the Azkals in the second leg of the semifinals at Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore on Dec. 12.
“I think we still have options and good depth in the team,” Palami said yesterday at the PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
Among the players mentioned by Palami who are capable of making an impact are Chris Greatwich, one of the heroes of the 2010 semifinal run, who has yet to see action this time, Demit Omphroy who recovered from flu only recently forcing him to miss the first two matches in Bangkok and Marwin Angeles.
Palami expects nothing less than a physical and intense affair against the three-time champion Lions.
“It’s going to be different on Saturday,” said Palami. “They are a well-prepared team and will come here to take away a point from us.”
The two-leg semifinals will be decided by aggregate scores with the away goals rule as the first tie breaker.