THE PHILIPPINES is seeing action in the AFF Suzuki Cup late this year without some of the defensive stalwarts from the past three editions of the biennial tournament, which all ended in semifinal losses.
But skipper Phil Younghusband believes the Azkals have enough quality to cope with the challenge and expressed confidence the team can win the tournament for the first time.
Rob Gier, Jerry Lucena and Juani Guirado have retired from international football, while Simone Rota and Daisuke Sato could also miss the tournament due to injury and club commitments, respectively, leaving the Azkals with a shortage of options at the back.
“It’s big because you’re not just losing players who have done well for us on the field, but you’re also losing players who are big personalities off the field and that’s a factor,” Younghusband said.
Dennis Villanueva is being groomed to pair up with Amani Aguinaldo at central defense, while Martin Steuble was deployed at rightback in the 2-1 away win over Kyrgyzstan last week.
The Azkals are facing familiar foes in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore in Group A in the Suzuki Cup which kicks off Nov. 19 at Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.