Azkal Sato all set for Suzuki Cup action

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Azkals defender Daisuke Sato is all prepared to boost the back line of the Philippine team in the upcoming group stage of the Suzuki Cup later this week.

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The Filipino-Japanese fullback, who currently plays for Romanian squad CSM Politehnica Iasi, was instrumental in the Azkals’ 1-0 victory against world No. 99 Kyrgyzstan.

“I was not there in the last two games against Bahrain and North Korea. I knew there was a problem in defense in the last two games so I really want to help. I hope I can play in the Suzuki Cup,” Sato said in an interview.

However, he explained that the negotiation for his release from CSM Politehnica Iasi in time for the biennial regional football championship is still ongoing,

“We are still negotiating with the club. We still have to deal with it and at the moment I still can’t say anything but I hope to play with the Azkals,” he said.

Igor Sergeev (right) of Uzbekistan battles for the ball against Luke Woodland (center) and Sato Daisuke (left) of the Azkals during their 2018 World Cup qualifying football match at the Philippine sports stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan on September 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO

Igor Sergeev (right) of Uzbekistan battles for the ball against Luke Woodland (center) and Sato Daisuke (left) of the Azkals during their 2018 World Cup qualifying football match at the Philippine sports stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan on September 8, 2015. AFP PHOTO

Sato has been an Azkals mainstay since 2014 but his responsibilities to a European club might get in the way of his participation in the Suzuki Cup.

The 22-year-old left back has two international goals for the Philippines and has been an anchor in coach Thomas Dooley’s slim back line.

Despite being an effective player in the flank, Sato was moved to the central defensive position for lack of qualified player to man the post.

According to Sato, he had no problem playing as a center back, noting that he was able to utilize his passing game to help the team bounce back from two consecutive losses.

“I’m happy that coach Dooley trusted me to play in a different position from where I am used to play. We played really well in the back. We passed really well,” he said.

“I just showed the team what I have. I know I can help the team a lot. Everyday I play with them before and I know how they play. I know I’m short but I’m strong on defense.”

Sato said that he is ready to lead the defense together with long-time partner Amani Aguinaldo if given a chance to play in the Southeast Asian Championship.

“If I play center back, I will take lead of the team. As a leader, I can speak and talk to them. I know I can play very well in the back,” he concluded.

The Azkals will be facing Singapore in the opening day of the tournament followed by bouts against Indonesia on November 22 and regional rivals Thailand on November 25.

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