Wednesday, May 18, 2011
I've just heard some disturbing news coming out of the Cambodian national team camp. The country's football team has two very important FIFA World Cup 1st qualifying round matches against neighbours Laos, home and away, later next month. In Phnom Penh on 29 June and in Vientiane on 3 July, to be precise. Both matches are winnable if Cambodia puts out its strongest team. However, I get the feeling that Lee Tae-Hoon, the South Korean coach in charge of the national team isn't taking the World Cup competition too seriously. I've heard that he's not going to bother recalling two or three of the country's best players back from their clubs in Thailand for the games and will instead use home-based players. So that means for example, Khim Borey and Keo Sokngorn will not be considered - though both have been sidelined with injuries in recent weeks - for the most important matches of 2011. His thinking is that players like the Army's Phuong Soksana and Chhin Chhoeurn are good enough, though neither rate when up against the two players now plying their trade in Thailand in my opinion. The reward for beating Laos will be a qualifying match-up against China, which should be reason enough to bust a gut to field your strongest line-up. Not so in the eyes of the South Korean coach it seems. In addition, the friendly game against the Malaysian Olympic squad, which will be played in Phnom Penh on Tuesday 7 June, will be used by the coach to suss out the strength of his Under-23 possibles ahead of the SEA Games later in the year (in Indonesia, 11-22 November). Despite its proximity to the World Cup ties, I've been told that the coaching staff believe the SEA Games are more important that the World Cup matches and so the main focus this year will be on the U-23s, who will participate in the SEA Games. That is, once the coaching staff have gone through the team rosters to work out who is eligible and then to get them together in a training camp for months on end. They may as well just select the Preah Khan Reach team and be done with it. Our record in the SEA Games isn't one to write home about either and in most people's eyes the World Cup would be the competition to give your main focus too. I await the Laos matches with keen interest, especially after the national team's failures in both the AFF Suzuki Cup and AFC Challenge Cup under the stewardship of Lee Tae-Hoon over the past nine months.