It would appear that those in charge of Cambodian football are more than happy for the national team coach, South Korean Lee Tae-Hoon (pictured), to keep his job, despite a pretty spectacular run of dismal failures since he took the job last August. The deputy director of the football federation, May Tola has confirmed that the coach has been handed a 1-year contract and indicated that he's doing well in the post. If failing to progress past the first round in the AFF Suzuki Cup (we lost out on goal difference in October's qualifying stage), the AFC Challenge Cup (after a win over Macau over 2-legs, we lost miserably in the Maldives group matches in March) and now the FIFA World Cup is a sign of success, then I'd like to know what they would term as doing badly. It's hard to imagine a poorer set of results. Presumably, those in charge deem recent wins over a poor Malaysian Olympic team, success against a Vietnamese second tier side and a 4-2 success over Laos, all at home, as a run of results deserving merit. I don't. I regard the victory over Laos as the only redeeming factor in a long list of poor results for the national team. The second leg, where Lee Tae-Hoon's team failed to stem the flow of goals from a rampant Laos team, that progressed to meet China with a 6-2 win after extra time, was painfully predictable. We have developed a nasty habit of conceding early goals.
That said, with Lee Tae-Hoon firmly in place for another twelve months, his focus will now shift from the full national team to the U-23s, as the SEA Games in Indonesia is the next big international competition on the horizon, with the 2nd edition of the BIDC Cup preceding it in Phnom Penh in October. But then, according to the national team camp, the focus has always been on the U-23s anyway and the World Cup matches were just an inconvenience to their future plans. Cambodia's record in the SEA Games does not make great reading, so the coach will have his work cut out if he's going to improve on recent years. However, it appears that Cambodia's football hierarchy have faith in his abilities, judging by their recent vote of confidence. Just for the record, in 2005 in the Philippines, we lost to Malaysia 0-5, Philippines 2-4 and Thailand 0-1. In Thailand in 2007, we suffered defeats to Indonesia 1-3, Thailand 0-8 and Myanmar 2-6. Our 2009 sojourn in Laos saw a 4-1 win over Timor Leste but defeats to Thailand 4-0, Malaysia 0-4 and Vietnam 1-6. So there's lots of room for improvement in our SEA Games record. The football competition at the SEA Games is always competed for at Under-23 level.