Cambodia, with four games in seven days, will meet a much tougher proposition in Laos on Sunday. Still smarting from that World Cup debacle under previous coach Lee Tae-Hoon, when Cambodia went down 8-6 over two legs, the Khmers will be out for revenge but Laos are no dummies, having qualified for the final round in 2010, when the two teams fought out a goal-less draw in the Suzuki Cup that year. Laos are coached by Japanese tactician Kokichi Kimara and recently defeated Philippines 2-1 in a friendly, with five players in their squad plying their trade in Thailand. With Laos sitting below Cambodia in the rankings at 193, I believe the match will be a draw, at one goal apiece.
Third game up for Cambodia will be Brunei on Tuesday. South Korea's Kwon Oh-son is their coach, in charge of a squad of all home-based players, who were bolstered by their Hassanal Bolkiah U-21 Cup win on home soil earlier this year. Just back from an international ban, Brunei last played Cambodia in 2008, losing 2-1. They are 203rd in the rankings and I tend to go for another draw, 0-0, when the teams meet on Tuesday. I'm very concerned about Cambodia's lack of firepower and the absence of enough quality warm-up games leading up to this do or die qualifying competition.
Their final match, with Cambodia taking on the host team Myanmar a week today, should be a predictable two-goal win for the Burmese. Or will it? Without their talismanic striker Yan Paing out injured, Myanmar under another South Korean coach, Park Sung-hwa, may find goals hard to come by, though a recent 1-1 draw with Singapore showed their strength. Home advantage will count for a lot and with Myanmar ranked the best of the five teams at 184, everyone expects them to progress. So do I and I believe they'll be joined by Laos, with Cambodia finishing in third place. It's important for new coach Hok Sochetra that his Cambodian team put up a good performance, with more offensive tactics deployed against Timor and Brunei, looking for wins, whilst adopting a more cautious approach against Laos and Myanmar. There's no point in being gung-ho in their approach, as even at this level, teams are disciplined enough to make you pay, but Timor and Brunei are winnable matches, if the team believes in itself, and its coach.