Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking ahead to 2012

Next month's SEA Games will be the main focus for the Cambodian national team, even though it's being played at U-23 age level, until the latter part of next year, 2012, when the qualifiers for the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup will take place. Fortunately, Cambodia didn't have to qualify for the SEA Games, though the 'group of death' in which they've been drawn - which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand - makes it impossible for them to progress. That's a given. After the team return from the SEA Games, there will be a barren international programme until those Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October next year, which will unveil the countries for the finals, two months later, to be held in Malaysia and Thailand. Lee Tae-Hoon was the coach in charge when we failed to qualify for the last finals in October 2010 with Laos and Philippines getting the nod instead. Next year will also see the finals of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, the AFC's second-tier of international competition behind the AFC Asian Cup. Cambodia won't be there as earlier this year, we lost out to Maldives, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the qualifying rounds. The host of the finals will be Nepal in March next year. And of course, there will be no World Cup qualifying matches to look forward to either. So a pretty lifeless few months ahead for the Cambodian national team after the SEA Games, though that's exactly when the football federation and the national coach should be arranging a series of international friendly matches that will test the squad, bring them much-needed practice against higher-standard opposition and boost their confidence ahead of the Suzuki Cup qualifiers. Matches against C-League teams, Korean university teams and a training camp in Vietnam do not cut the mustard, the federation have to be much braver than they have in the past, and start engaging far better opponents for the national team. In the run up to the SEA Games, Malaysia have spent three months in a training camp in Slovakia for example. Or look at Nepal, who Cambodia meet in a friendly game in Phnom Penh on 28 October. They've been preparing for the South Asian Football Federation Cup with an overseas tour of Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand. Both countries have been thinking outside the box. Something our football federation are not renowned for. Do I think anything will change? Most likely not, but we can always live in hope.

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