FOR someone who’s been in and out of the Philippine men’s football team, Mark Hartmann’s place in the Azkals has never looked more secure than on Sunday night.
The 22-year-old Filipino-British striker showed why by scoring four goals - all in the first half - in the Azkals’ 5-0 rout of Papua New Guinea in their friendly at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Hartmann, who started donning the country’s colors since 2011, has had an up-and-down stint with the national team, having been called up in friendlies before getting snubbed in big tournaments as a disciplinary action.
In Azkals coach Thomas Dooley’s first two months handling the squad, Hartmann never missed a call-up in the training pool, only for him to get excluded in the lineup for the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup last May.
“What happened, happened and now I’m here, hopefully I keep my spot,” said Hartmann, who was recalled last August.
After firing blanks since his return, Hartmann finally repaid Dooley’s faith with an offensive outpour against PNG.
Dooley was not surprised.
“That’s his job,” the German-American mentor said. “He is somebody who has a big chance to score and he’s an incredible player.”
After all, Hartmann is the reigning holder of the United Football League Golden Boot plum, having led the league in scoring for champion Global FC.
“He showed that in the league so many times and he just has to prove that in the national team,” Dooley said. “He showed what he can do (against PNG) and now he comes in with a lot of confidence heading into the next games when we play more difficult players.”
Hartmann just has to stay consistent ahead of the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
“If coach plays me, I’m going to take my chances,” he said. “And if I keep scoring, it’ll be hard for Tom not to pick me.”