[Photo taken by S. Kieron Tan]
MANILA, Philippines - Top-caliber Fil-Danish players Jerry Lucena and Dennis Cagara are raring to suit up for the Philippine Azkals in their upcoming campaign in the AFF Suzuki Cup in late November but they maintained their availability will still depend on their respective clubs back in Europe.
Lucena, a defender/defending midfielder with AGF Aarhus in the Danish Superliga, and Cagara, a left back who’s set to sign up with a new German club after his release from FSV Frankfurt, both promised to do their best to get the approval to return to the Azkals fold for the Suzuki Cup in Malaysia and Thailand.
“I’m going to work hard for it, from now until the Suzuki Cup to get the possibility to come back,” said Lucena, who made his international debut for Phl in 2011 against Palestine in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round and played in friendlies versus Nepal, Indonesia and Guam.
“I have to talk to my club and let’s see what happens. Hopefully I can come. The season ends in Denmark in beginning of December so it’s maybe just one game I’m going to miss (for the club if I go to the Suzuki Cup),” he added.
Cagara has become a free agent and is currently finalizing a deal with another German club, with possibly a clause that will allow him to assume international duties.
“I hope for same thing as Jerry. I’m going to sign a two-year contract with a new German club; it’s not official yet so I can’t name it but I already told them that if I sign, they should let me go to Suzuki Cup,” said Cagara, who has played in the Azkals’ friendlies against Indonesia and Guam this month and Singapore and Nepal last year.
“I really want to go to the Suzuki Cup but we just have to wait and see; maybe the club will say no in the end but I hope I can get a go,” he added.
The Fil-Danish duo has been on the wish list of Azkals coach Michael Weiss for major tournaments but they have not been able to join the team so far. Cagara was listed in the lineup for the AFC Challenge Cup last March but couldn’t come.
“They are players who can make a difference, they have the experience and they’re cool,”’ said Weiss.
After the friendlies with Indonesia and Guam, Cagara and Lucena noted the improvement of the Azkals from the last time they played with them.
“The development is definitely there. There’s a big improvement; unfortunately, Schröck had to go back (home) because of personal stuff but I think we have a good team,” said Cagara, referring to Fil-German midfielder Stephan Schröck of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim who played against Malaysia before leaving.
“And you know, it’s so difficult for the coach to bring the whole unit together because sometimes players who play in Europe, we can’t be there all the time so it’s difficult but I think definitely there’s a positive development,” he added.
Lucena readily concurred: “We’re going the right way. Of course, we still have to get better and we will.”