World Cup qualifying schedule conflict keeps six Azkals mainstays out of SEA Games squad
Mark Hartmann and five other senior Azkals will stay in the Philippines for the match against Bahrain. Jerome Ascano

A SCHEDULING conflict will keep the Azkals mainstays from joining the Philippine men’s under-23 football team in the Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.

Amani Aguinaldo, Kenshiro Daniels, Mark Hartmann, Manny Ott, OJ Porteria, and Daisuke Sato, senior team members eligible for the U-23 squad, are expected to be with Azkals at home for the Fifa World Cup qualifiers opener against Bahrain on June 11 at the Philippine Stadium.

The U-23 squad plays its last SEA Games match on June 9 against Indonesia, causing an overlap in the schedule.

“Hindi sila makakalaro (sa SEA Games). Priority ang World Cup,” Philippine Football Federation president Nonong Araneta said on Wednesday.

But Araneta assured the age-group team, coached by Jim Fraser of Australia, will be ready in its return to the biennial meet even without the Azkals standouts.

“We just have to prepare,” said Araneta, who was recently elected to the AFC executive committee. “Buti sana kung pinapabayaan yung (SEA Games) team, eh may camp naman eh.”

The U-23 Azkals is eyeing a two-week training camp in Australia at the end of the month before heading to Singapore.

The SEA Games team opens its campaign on June 1 against host Singapore, two days later versus Cambodia, before taking on Myanmar on June 7.

The top two teams in the five-team Group A advance to the knockout stage.

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