Cambodian national football team flew to Macau via Hong Kong today, in preparation for their AFC Challenge Cup qualifying second leg match on Wednesday. Leading 3-1 from the first leg in Phnom Penh last week, Cambodia are red hot favourites to progress through to the group stage of the cup, which will be played at the end of next month. They showed they have too much in their locker for their opponents, from the special administrative area of China, even though Macau came back strongly in the latter stages of last Wednesday's match. Coach Lee Tae-Hoon has selected a playing squad of 20 to take on Macau, with Srey Veasna (of Loei City in Thailand) the only player who featured in last week's game, not making the trip. The squad is: Mic, Bunchhay, Raksmey, Narith, Tiny, Piseth, Pancharong, T Udom; Sothearath, Sopanha, PM Udom, Soksana, Soun Veasna, Sokngorn, C Rithy; El Nasa, Sokumpheak, Borey, Pheng, Laboravy.
Success for Cambodia will pitch them into Group C of the AFC Challenge Cup alongwith three other teams. Matches will be played between 21-30 March, though the host country has yet to be announced. A look at the FIFA/Coca-Cola world rankings shows that the top team in the group will be the Republic of Tajikistan, rated at 141 in the world. Half of their national team comes from the Tajik League champions Istiqlol Dushanbe, who strolled to the league title in December, completing their domestic season with 26 wins, six draws and no defeats. The same theme applied to the Indian Ocean-based Maldives champions VB Sports, who were undefeated in 21 games to win the Dhiraagu Dhivehi League crown and who will populate the Maldives national team, who are ranked at 160 in the FIFA table. They lie six places above Cambodia, who are at 166. The weakest of the Group C countries on paper will be Kyrgyzstan, at 175, for whom Neftchi Kochkorata are the league champions. Macau stand at 193 in the rankings.