The Philippines got a boost ahead of its AFF Suzuki Cup semifinal clash against three-time champion Singapore on Saturday with striker Angel Guirado and leftback Dennis Cagara given the green light by their clubs to rejoin the Azkals for their first home game in the history of the prestigious tournament.
Azkals manager Dan Palami Wednesday confirmed the release of the two key players for the national side, which is looking to surpass its semifinal finish two years ago.
Guirado, who scored in stoppage time in the 2-0 win over Myanmar, is slated to arrive in Manila Thursday just like Cagara, easing the worries of coach Michael Weiss.
Guirado plays club football for Salgaocar FC in the Indian League, while Cagara plies his trade for Karlsruher in the German third division. The clubs are actually not inclined to release players for the Suzuki Cup as the tournament doesn’t fall on a Fifa-sanctioned international date.
“We thank the clubs for heeding our request,” said Palami. “It’s important that we have all our players for our game here. We are determined to give a good performance for the country in our first Suzuki Cup home game.”
Cagara started all three games of the group stage, capped by a remarkable performance against Myanmar, where he helped neutralize striker Kyi Lin. Guirado also assisted on Chieffy Caligdong’s winning goal against Vietnam.
Rightback Ray Jonsson is also expected to recover from the quad muscle injury in time for the showdown with Singapore, giving Weiss a selection dilemma after Carli de Murga played steadily in Jonsson’s place against Myanmar.
Fil-Danish midfielder Jerry Lucena, who started in the matches against Thailand and Vietnam, has been ruled out for the first leg due to club commitments. Palami said Lucena will be back for the second leg in Singapore on Dec. 12.
But while the Azkals’ bid got a shot-in-the-arm with the availability of key players, the Lions were dealt a blow after midfielder Shi Jiayi was ruled out from the first leg showdown due to personal reasons.