Saturday, November 12, 2011
Look of resignation
Lee Tae-Hoon, the national coach of Cambodia, at the final whistle of yesterday's 4-0 SEA Games defeat to Thailand, said it all. He looked glum and weary after another of his tactical howlers came unstuck. Thailand let Cambodia off the hook with just the four goals, the scoreline could've been a lot worse as Lee's attempts to restrict his opponents came undone at the seams. His decision to play an extra defender in a five-man midfield was horribly exposed as Pancharong was given the runaround and his midfield colleagues, Saray and Souhana were conspicuous by their complete absence from the action. Playing a five-man midfield can work with the right personnel but Lee's choices came back to haunt him again, much as they did in the previous matches against Indonesia and Singapore. The South Korean coach, who came into the competition on the back of a catalogue of disastrous results in his 14 months in charge, finally gave Keo Sokngorn a starting place against Thailand but had seen enough by half-time to take him off. That was after the Kratie-born youngster was given 20 minutes and 2 minutes against Indonesia and Singapore respectively. Sokngorn is one of two players in the Cambodian squad who can single-handedly turn a match, Khuon Laboravy is the other, but under Lee's reign, he doesn't know whether he's coming or going and coupled with a foot injury that required injections just before the SEA Games began, Sokngorn's presence has been wasted. Lee did the same to Khim Borey a while back, calling him up for matches and then sitting him in the stand and on the bench, and then incredulously failed to invite him to Jakarta for this competition. Without his attacking talent, Cambodia have looked toothless in front of goal and another selection clanger has come home to roost. Lee instead opted for Phoung Soksana and Laboravy as his main attacking threats, though Laboravy's two yellow cards aginst Singapore, meant he sat out yesterday's game. On his own, Soksana looked lost and woefully short of international pedigree, as did too many in the Cambodian line-up yesterday. I feel for Soun Veasna, who had a good season for Preah Khan Reach last term but under Lee has merited just a 2 minute cameo in this SEA Games so far. With Chhun Sothearath suspended, I would've thought Veasna, or the lesser-able Pov Phearith, would get the nod. But Lee had other ideas. He doesn't even trust his own players in their normal positions, instead giving defender Touch Pancharong the holding role in the middle of the park. Decisions like that smack of desperation and that's basically where Lee has arrived at in his management of the national team. He now has to select a line-up to face the reigning champions Malaysia on Sunday. He should make the most of it because it should be his last as the national coach, either by way of falling on his own sword and admitting enough is enough, being withdrawn by his paymasters (the Korean FA) or the Cambodian federation calling time on their misguided appointment of 14 months ago.