Fliorida, march 14: Seven Cuban footballers from the under-23 team have gone missing following an Olympic qualifying match in Florida.
Sports network ESPN initially reported the defection of goalkeeper Jose Manuel Miranda, Erlys Garcia Baro, team captain Yenier Bermudez, Yordany Alvarez and Loanni Cartaya Prieto.
The quintet was later joined by defender Yendri Diaz and midfielder Eder Roldan.Diaz, 20, explained his decision to ESPN.After the defection of the first five players the morale of the team was low. I was thinking of leaving after the tournament but given the situation I preferred to bring forward my departure,' said the player who is staying with friends and hopes to try out for a Miami team next Monday.
'I made this decision because I want to also prove my worth at a more international level while benefiting from greater freedom,' Garcia Baro said.
Team coach Raul Gonzalez said the players had not informed him of their decision and insisted they would not be withdrawing from the tournament.
'Nothing has changed. We'll play against Honduras on Thursday. We're going to continue to follow all the training programmes and play the rest of the tournament. We're not thinking of pulling out.'
Cuba opened on Tuesday with a 1-1 draw against the United States.
CONCACAF are analysing the situation of the team in the tournament, as they will not have enough players to fill the bench in the upcoming match against Honduras on Thursday.
Cuba will only just be able to name a starting XI, as the squad was reduced to 12 men and forward Roberto Linares was sent-off in the United States match.