Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What's next for the national team

The Cambodian U-22 national team conclude their AFC U-22 Asian Cup qualifying group matches this evening, when they play the hosts Laos at 7pm. Cambodia have already failed to qualify, winning their opening game against Hong Kong but falling well short in their next three matches against Thailand, China and North Korea. They'd like to save some face by beating Laos, but the host nation will also want to keep face with their own fans, so the likelihood is that Laos will prevail. I'll bring you the final result later tonight. Update: Cambodia managed a point from their final Group F match with a 3-3 draw with hosts Laos U-22s tonight, thanks to a penalty save from keeper Sou Yaty eight minutes from time. Chhin Chhoeun and Tith Dina put Cambodia ahead twice in the first-half but they still went in level pegging at the break. Laos took the lead just before the hour and then sub Phourng Soksana made it 3-3 minutes later. Pov Phearith came on as a sub and with two yellow cards in two minutes late on, saw red. Despite having the majority of possession, the home team couldn't quite satisfy a crowd of 9,800 with a winning goal.

Once the Cambodian team and coaches return from Laos, the Football Federation will have to make some snappy decisions about the future of the senior national team. They have already revealed that South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon is on his bike back to Korea after a thoroughly dismal 21 months in charge. The Federation have indicated in the media that they will look to go local with their next appointment. Presumably, they were hoping that Prak Sokmony's stint in charge of the U-22s would come up smelling of roses, but that hasn't happened. Despite the Federation's bravado of saying Cambodia now has a batch of coaches with A-Licence credentials, they are woefully devoid of credible international-level experience except Prak Sovannara, currently at the helm of NagaCorp. He would be the obvious choice, but the Federation may have other irons in the fire. We'll have to wait and see what they pull out of the hat this time around.

The next big competition involving Cambodia is not that far away. Qualification matches for the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup will take place in early October in Myanmar against the hosts, Brunei, Laos and Timor Leste. Two teams will then progress to the competition proper, which will be split between hosts Thailand and Malaysia at the end of November. The complete lack of an international playing schedule of matches for the senior national team in preparation for the Suzuki Cup competition is a recipe for disaster, but will not come as a surprise to anyone. The last game for the senior national team was their World Cup fiasco in Laos last July. A year ago. All matches since that time have been at U-21, U-23 and U-22 level. This contrasts starkly with the Philippines for example, who have already scheduled twenty-plus matches for their national team leading up to the Suzuki Cup, including a tour of the United States, hosting a 4-team tournament as well as training camps in Bahrain and Japan. Now that's what I call planning ahead.

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