THE Philippines is forced to make do with what it has as it opens its Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup campaign on Saturday night against Singapore at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The Azkals are missing three standouts in the opener that kicks off at 8 p.m. with Javier Patiño and Daisuke Sato out due to club commitments and Martin Steuble suspended.
Patiño and Sato are unavailable for the entire tournament, which the country is hosting for the first time, as their mother teams in China and Romania, respectively, are not required to release them with the Suzuki Cup not falling on Fifa dates.
Steuble, for his part, will only be absent against the Singaporeans as he serves a suspension after picking up a red card in the Filipino booters' last match in the 2014 edition of the tournament, the semifinals against eventual champion Thailand.
But Azkals coach Thomas Dooley is sticking to the positives, confident he has enough players to fill the void.
“I don’t want to spend my time wondering about what would have happened if they were here,” the American-German mentor said in the pre-match press conference on Friday. “The players (that are here) are coming out to be successful. They just have to believe in themselves and work hard.”
“Obviously, it’s sad to have some of the best players not a part of it, but we can’t control it and our job is just to play the game,” the former US skipper in the World Cup added.
Phil Younghusband captains the squad that also features his brother James and Suzuki Cup debutante Stephan Schrock.
Still, the absence of Patiño and Sato is a big blow. Already lacking choices at centerback with the retirement of Rob Gier and Juani Guirado, the Azkals will miss Sato, a natural leftback who was paired with Amani Aguinaldo in the middle in the friendly against Kyrgyzstan last week.
The experiment seemed to work as the Filipinos came out with a morale-boosting 1-0 win in their last friendly before the Suzuki Cup.