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Azkals to miss Fil-Spanish striker

The Philippine Azkals will likely miss the services of Fil-Spanish striker Javier Patino for the AFF Suzuki Cup group stage which starts on Saturday at the Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Reports said that commitments with Chinese Super League club Henan Jianye dimmed the chances of the 28-year-old talisman to represent the country for the first time in Southeast Asia’s biggest football competition.

Philippine Football Federation General Secretary Ed Gastanes said on Tuesday, before the reports came out, that the federation sought for the release of Patino, but are having difficulty getting his services as the Suzuki Cup does not fall during the FIFA matchdays.

Under FIFA rules, clubs are required to release players for national team duty during the said period.

“The Suzuki Cup does not fall under FIFA match dates, that is why the clubs can refuse to release their players,” said Gastanes during Tuesday’s PSA Forum. “We’re not sure if (Henan) will release Patino, but Javier wants to play in this competition. He’s raring to come and play.”

With Patino likely out of the tournament, the Azkals will rely on their regular strikers like Misagh Bahadoran, who is looking for a breakout campaign in the Suzuki Cup after a sensational domestic campaign for UFL double winner Global.

The Azkals could also go with Phil Younghusband, Manny Ott and expected debutants Mike Ott and Pika Minegishi for goals as they try to secure their fourth straight semifinal appearance.