MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Azkals are bringing in more reinforcements as they launch their assault on history in the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup beginning Nov. 19 at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bulacan.
As the opening game against Singapore draws near, Phl XI is looking to add Nürnberg II striker Mike Ott, Henan Jianye scorer Javier Patiño and Global FC midfielder Hikaru “Pika” Minegishi to the squad that stunned Kyrgyzstan, 1-0, in its last friendly before the Asean meet.
Team manager Dan Palami said they are negotiating with the respective clubs of Ott and Patiño to secure their release even as they await the issuance of UFL MVP Minegishi’s Philippine passport that will make him eligible to suit up for the national side.
“We have new players coming in, especially Mike Ott and Pika Minegishi, to join the team training and for the Suzuki Cup,” said Palami.
“We’re also working with Patiño’s club to give him the go signal. Javier has expressed his desire to really join the team but we just need to fix something with his club, some contractual permissions that we hope the club can exempt him from,” he said.
The 21-year-old Ott, who scored the Azkals’ lone goal in their 1-3 setback to Bahrain last month, and Patiño, who piled up nine goals in the Chinese Super League, are expected to provide much needed firepower up front.
Minegishi, for his part, can help the team with his off-the-ball movements.
“He’s got a great work ethic. His reaction in transition from offense to defense is great and vice versa; he has speed and can accelerate, he’s dangerous up front and that’s what we need,” said coach Thomas Dooley of the Fil-Japanese.
Meanwhile, Palami said management is also in talks with defender Daisuke Sato’s club CSM Politehnica Iasi in the Romanian league to get the greenlight for his stint in the Suzuki Cup. The club had actually allowed Sato to play in the friendly against Kyrgyzstan.
“We also asked permission of the club and all indications show they’re agreeable to let him play. They just need to also clear up some things insofar as his absence with the club is concerned,” Palami said.
The Azkals seek to score a breakthrough triumph in the coming Suzuki Cup after reaching the semifinals the last three editions. They hope to make the most of the home field advantage to hurdle Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia in the group stage the country is hosting for the first time at Philippine Sports Stadium from Nov. 19-25.