|Cambodia's coach Hok Sochetra faces the press (www.affsuzukicup.com)|
Sochetra is the football federation's man. It was he they turned too after Lee Tae-Hoon's twenty-one months in charge of the national team fizzled out when his contract was not renewed. Lee's record of 21 international matches, winning four times, drawing three and losing 14 games wasn't exactly a hard act to follow. The appointment of the country's leading goalscorer of all time (he netted 42 goals in 64 appearances) invigorated some, whilst others were seeking someone with a proven track record. Sochetra had some success as a player-coach at Samart United in the early part of the last decade, but that's been about it until he gained credibility in the federation's eyes by passing the AFC A-licence coaching course in February. Without much time to stamp his authority and style on his squad, Sochetra must've known Suzuki Cup qualification would be a tough ask, though I don't think he quite appreciated just how far Cambodia had fallen behind their nearest rivals. They were outclassed by Timor Leste and Myanmar, whilst the results against Laos and Brunei were closer on paper but Cambodia never looked capable of winning any of the matches. It certainly is a case of back to the drawing board for Sochetra and Cambodian football after this wake-up call. I would like to hear Sochetra's long-term strategy, and the federation's for that matter, on how he intends to improve the national team's fast-disappearing international credibility, but with an inept sports press in the capital, that's highly unlikely.
So what's next for Sochetra and the national team. Well, the first challenge is about five months away. The AFC Challenge Cup, 2014 edition, will have its draw later this month to decide who Cambodia will be playing. Pre-qualifying, home and away, is likely for Cambodia early next year, before the actual qualifying group stages a month later, if they get through. There's the next SEA Games, which will be held in Myanmar in December of next year, though that is for Under-23 teams rather than senior national teams. The next AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers are two years away. And of course, World Cup qualification is far in the distance, most likely sometime in 2015. With the federation's past record of failing to secure international friendlies, we're unlikely to see the national team playing again, anytime soon. So that gives the head coach and the federation a lot of thinking and planning time. Whether they put it to good use, remains to be seen.