One of the rising stars of the Philippine Azkals has become unavailable for selection in South East Asia’s biggest football competition.
Philippines coach Stewart Hall revealed that defender Jefferson Tabinas, who plays for Mito Hollyhock in Japan’s J2 League, will not compete for the country in its quest to reign supreme in the 2020 AFF Suzuki Cup.
“Tabinas is not coming at all,” shared Hall. “Obviously, there are problems in the Japan end and he’s not coming. That’s no problem for us.
“If I give you the stats, we’re about 27 players short of what we consider to be our strongest squad.”
Tabinas’s absence this close to the Suzuki Cup is a blow to the country’s hopes of finally winning the silverware.
Veterans from past campaigns such as Carli de Murga, Alvaro Silva, and Luke Woodland are out of the pool, which means the likes of Matthew Custodio, Mar Vincent Diano, Christian Rontini and Yrick Gallantes need to step up quickly if they are called upon by the coaching staff.
“We haven’t actually replaced him with a player physically coming in. We’ve got two young center-backs here from the under-23 squad that is working and obviously it’s an opportunity now for one of them,” said Hall.
“We haven’t physically replaced him but obviously, we think we can cover him from within the squad.”
Interestingly, though, fellow Group A team Thailand is set to have its lineup strengthened by late arrivals attacking midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin and left-back Theerathon Bunmathan who play for the Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Yokohama F. Marinos, respectively, in Japan’s J1 League.
Both players missed out on Thailand’s win over Timor Leste but are available against Myanmar on Saturday.
Additionally, Hall disclosed that there are two more players from the Azkals camp who cannot play against host nation Singapore tomorrow. Defender Jesper Nyholm and midfielder Iain Ramsay will definitely be out of action for the Philippines’ opener.
“We have a player (Nyholm) who is flying in tonight and obviously tomorrow is a little bit too last minute dot com if you like so he won’t be considered for this game but he’ll play a part obviously in the other games coming forward,” said the British mentor.
“We’re still trying to get Ramsay in and also I’ve been told – there are two more replacements coming in from Germany. At the minute, we’re working with 21 players. It will be nice to have another two or three actually to add to that. But they won’t be here until after tomorrow’s game.”
Despite all of these roster challenges and changes, Hall is still happy to work with the cards that he has been dealt with. Ultimately, once the game starts, anything can happen and it is up to the Filipinos to find a way to get that win.
“So you can be disrespectful to the players here and say this is a ‘C’ squad or you can say to the players here (that) it’s a fantastic opportunity for everybody so go out and take it. Maximize the chances that you’re gonna get. That’s the way I’d like to look at it.”