MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Azkals suffered another blow to their 23-man lineup as Daisuke Sato will miss out on the country's campaign in the 2018 ASEAN Football Federation Suzuki Cup playoffs.
Sato is compelled to return to his club ACS Sepsi OSK Sfântu Gheorghe in Romania.
"On to the semifinal of Suzuki Cup 2018, I'm happy to have achieved this together with the team and of course we are looking for [the] gold. But at the same time, I'm sad to say my time with the national team is over," wrote Sato in a statement posted on Twitter.
"This was the tournament that I always wanted to play [in] since I missed Suzuki Cup 2016. But I'm thankful to the club for the opportunity that they gave me and led me to play for 4 games."
Thank you and good luck to the boys for the rest of the tournament #Azkals pic.twitter.com/lLR8BnYTvu — Daisuke Sato (@daisukesato11) November 26, 2018
The left back was not released by his club back in 2016, but was able to suit up for national duty this Suzuki Cup.
Under the tutelage of Philippines head coach and former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, Sato has proven to be vital in anchoring the Azkals' back four during the group stage which greatly helped the team book a home-and-away semifinals series against Vietnam.
"To represent my country is always special for me. [It's] so hard to leave here at this moment but I wish them all the best and I'm sure the boys will give everything. Thank you for your support and see you soon."
Sepsi Sfântu Gheorghe will be needing the services of the Filipino-Japanese defender as the club is vying to advance to the Championship Round of the 2018–19 Liga I season.
The Azkals have already lost centerback Luke Woodland to a foot injury he sustained in the opening game over Singapore. – Rappler.com