By Kelvin Leong
Mark Hartmann is focused on helping co-hosts Philippines claim a first-ever AFF Suzuki Cup title after leaving S.League side Geylang International.
After becoming the first-ever Filipino to ply his trade in the S.League, the burly forward netted eight goals in 11 games for the Eagles this season, attracting offers from Thailand, Malaysia, and back home.
With Geylang deciding not to retain his services, Hartmann is hoping to make the Azkals' squad for the Suzuki Cup on home soil before weighing up his club options on the table.
"Bittersweet if you ask me [about my time in Singapore]," Hartmann told ESPN FC. "I came in mid-season half fit, but managed to score goals and prove my worth.
"The club and fans have been great but I'm now leaving my options open. There is a concrete offer from a club on the table, but I just want to focus on national team duty for now.
"This year's [Suzuki Cup] is on home soil, and I'll fight for my place in the team. We have a lot of good players who are eager to play, so it needs to be 100 percent effort to make coach's [Dooley] final selection."
The former Southampton trainee knows that the stakes are high. The Azkals are in a tough Group A, comprising Singapore, reigning champions Thailand and Indonesia.
"That first game against Singapore is going to be crucial for the rest of our campaign," he said.
"We need a good start to get the crowd behind us and I know the quality Singapore possess.
"My Geylang teammates, like Gabriel [Quak], Sahil [Suhaimi] and Faritz [Hameed], are all capable of producing the goods, so we must be find a way to contain them.
"Having said that, if I make the team and have a chance to line up against Singapore, it'll be extra special since I've played here [in Singapore] for the past few months. A goal to win it for Philippines will be sweet."
Philippines open their Group A campaign against Singapore on Nov. 19 at the Philippines Sports Stadium in Bocaue. Group B will see the likes of Datuk Ong Kim Swee's Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia lock horns.
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