AFC Challenge Cup group matches, that are being staged in Male, in the Maldives this week. On paper the Cambodia team are ranked by FIFA as the 2nd best team in the group in 154th place, though with home advantage I expect Maldives to put in that extra effort when the teams meet later tonight. Maldives are ranked in 161st place and will be no push-overs. The best team in the group are undoubtedly Tajikistan (ranked 148th) and they grabbed third place in the 2010 Challenge Cup competition, so the match against Cambodia on Wednesday (23 Mar) will be a tough ask for our boys. Incidentally, Tajikistan won the competition in 2006 and were runners-up in 2008. The final game on Friday (25 Mar) will be against 174th placed Kyrgyzstan, but they finished in 3rd spot in 2006 and have a good club pedigree in the President's Cup. All 3 of Cambodia's matches begin at 11pm Cambodian time.
In the 2010 qualification group matches for the AFC Challenge Cup, Cambodia went down narrowly to host country Bangladesh (0-1) and Myanmar (0-1) and beat Macau (2-1) but it wasn't enough to get through the group stage. The Maldives also didn't get through their group, held in Male, despite wins over Philippines (3-2) and Bhutan (5-0), as a 3-1 defeat against Turkmenistan was their undoing, on goal difference. The other country to play in the group qualifiers was Kyrgyzstan, who went through courtesy of more goals scored after two drawn matches against Nepal and Palestine. Once they were through to the competition proper, Kyrgyzstan started well with a 2-1 win over India before bowing out with defeats against North Korea (4-0) and Turmenistan (1-0). As for Tajikistan, they were automatic qualifiers for the finals last year, and despite a 2-1 loss to Bangladesh in the opening game, they roared back to beat Sri Lanka 3-1 and Myanmar 3-0 to reach the semi-final. They lost 2-0 to Turkmenistan but did claim 3rd place with a 1-0 win over Myanmar.