By Olmin Leyba
MANILA, Philippines - The Azkals will be missing the solid presence of two veterans, Phil Younghusband in front and Rob Gier in the back, when they kick off their campaign in the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup against Afghanistan on Tuesday in Maldives.
“Phil and Rob are suspended for the first game,” Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta told The STAR yesterday.
Younghusband, the Golden Boot winner of the 2012 Challenge Cup, and Gier, the seasoned defender and leader, are ineligible for the match against the Afghans as a result of getting booked in the qualifying stage of the Challenge Cup last year at Rizal Memorial.
The Fil-British striker was sent off in the Azkals’ 1-0 victory over Turkmenistan after getting two yellow cards in the Group E match, the first for a handball and the second for holding on to the shoulder of an opponent.
Gier accumulated two yellow cards in the three-nation qualifiers, the first in the Azkals’ 8-0 rout of Cambodia and the second in the win over Turkmenistan.
Phl XI will face Afghanistan, the reigning South Asian champions, in Day 1 of Group B action Tuesday night at Hithadhoo Stadium (midnight Wednesday in Manila). Next up will be Asean neighbor Laos on Thursday also at HIthadhoo, then Turkmenistan on the last day of elims on Saturday.
The Azkals arrived yesterday in Maldives’ capital Male from their training camp in Bahrain and took a chartered flight to Addu City in the nation’s southern atoll at night.