BANGKOK – Filipino-Danish Jerry Lucena has left for Denmark on Wednesday to rejoin his professional team Esbjerg, leaving the Azkals with a big defensive hole in midfield just two days before they take on Myanmar in their final group match in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
The 32-year-old Filipino-Danish Lucena has been a force as a defensive midfielder along with Jason de Jong in the past two games, especially in the Azkals’ 1-0 victory over Vietnam on Tuesday night at the Rajamangala Stadium.
While most of the credit went to the back four of Dennis Cagara, Juani Guirado, Rob Gier, and Ray Jonsson, the midfield was managed by Lucena and De Jong, helping resuscitate the Azkals’ hopes of at least replicating their semifinal finish in 2010.
Gier, who wore the captain’s armband against Vietnam, admitted Lucena’s absence will greatly affect the Nationals, but noted that there are others in the lineup who can fill the spot.
“Honestly, he (Lucena) will be a big loss,” he said. “You don’t really know he’s in the game but the amount of work he puts in cannot be measured because he’s just so invaluable to the team.
“His loss will be a big deal for us, but we have good players who can play at his position,” Gier added.
Azkals coach Michael Weiss was more straightforward.
“The one that is not here doesn’t count,” the German mentor said. “We knew that before and we’re happy that he was here. We thank him very much for his contributions.”
“But we have to find his counterpart,” Weiss said. “We have to find the right players who will put the strategy into practice, the ones who are willing to help and play our tactical game.”
Among the possible replacements are Jeff Christiaens and Marwin Angeles.