Overseas-based players Angel Guirado and Dennis Cagara have been released by their respective clubs and will be back in harness for the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semi-final between the Philippines and Singapore in Manila on Saturday at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
National team liaison officer Ace Bright said on Wednesday that he talked with Guirado and Cagara on the phone to confirm the news.
"They will play in the home game (if selected). I am trying to get their plane tickets so they can be back in Manila at least by Friday,” he said.
Cagara, who plays for German Third Division Club Karlsruher, and Guirado, of Indian side Salgaocar, were not with the team when they flew back home on Saturday from the Group A matches in Thailand.
Following an initial 2-1 loss to hosts Thailand, the Azkals bounced back with victories over Vietnam and Myanmar to secure a semi-final spot for the second straight time in the regional football showcase after placing second in the group behind the Thais.
The duo’s availability has boosted the stock of the Filipinos in their quest to reassert mastery over The Lions, who they beat in back-to-back friendly matches recently.
Two years ago, the Azkals missed the opportunity of playing the semis in front of their own fans for the lack of a suitable venue but an upgrade to the Rizal Memorial Stadium has paved the way for a first-ever AFF Suzuki Cup match on home turf.
Guirado made an impact after coming on as a substitute in the last two matches and the bull-like striker scored the second goal in the 2-0 victory over Myanmar, latching on to a through ball and powering a left foot shot into the net.
“Boss, thank you very much for your attention to my (situation),” Guirado wrote on the social networking site Twitter by way of thanks to team manager Dan Palami.
Cagara has been a daunting defensive presence and will be eager to reprise his role alongside fellow defenders Rob Gier, Juani Guirado and Ray Jonsson, who, according to Palami, is recovering fast from his quadriceps injury and could play this weekend.
Also tipped to be back in fighting form is versatile midfielder Patrick Reichelt, who broke several teeth after colliding with Angel Guirado in training in Bangkok, but has had them fixed by the dentist since returning to the country.
Jerry Lucena, who left the team after turning out in the second game against Vietnam to play for his Danish Superliga Club Esbjerg also this Saturday, may be back for the second leg in Singapore at the Jalan Besar Stadium next Wednesday.
AFF Suzuki Cup website