Wednesday, June 1, 2011

National team shenanigans

I've almost given up on the Cambodia national team whilst Lee Tae-Hoon remains in charge. Not quite, but the more I hear the more I am very concerned that the national team is stumbling backwards rather than inching forwards under the South Korean. Word coming out of the national team camp is that any Thai-based players will not be considered for the forthcoming U-23 friendly against the Malaysian Olympic squad on Tuesday 7 June and will also be ignored for the ultra-important FIFA World Cup qualifying games, home and away, against Laos at the end of the month and start of July. I'm informed that the coach is not looking at the Laos matches as the most important of the year, instead he's looking at the SEA Games (at U-23 level) in November as the highlight of his 2011, and before that another BIDC Cup tournament is also planned. I agree with looking forwards and building for the future, but we have a real opportunity to beat Laos with our strongest side on the field and that would then pitch us against the might of China. Surely that is enough to warrant busting a gut to beat Laos. It appears not for Lee Tae-Hoon. Either he's lost touch with reality or I'm missing the big picture. He's already failed to advance in the AFF Suzuki Cup and AFC Challenge Cup during his tenure to-date and a loss over the two games against Laos would be disastrous in my opinion. However, it seems that view is not shared by the football federation of Cambodia, who appear happy for the South Korean coach to remain at the helm, steering the Cambodian ship into anonymity and tumbling down the pecking order of World and Asian rankings. The enforced absence of players like Khim Borey, currently playing at the highest level of any Cambodian footballer, with Sisaket in the Thai Premier, and Keo Sokngorn is quite simply, a ridiculous decision. I've also heard unsubstantiated rumours that he intends to convert one of the C-League's mercurial wingers into a centre-half, whilst pitching a bunch of young and untested players from some of the lesser teams into the fray, having called them into his training squad since the middle of May. The winger in question is In Vichheka of Kirivong, who on his day can be a matchwinner with his neat footwork and cool finishing, but to ask him to play in defence with his questionable work ethic - I just don't see it. Some of the other new faces who've been under the influence of Lee Tae-Hoon's training regime in the last few weeks include Prek Pra's Mat Hasan and Sos Souhana, Naga's volatile Tiet Chandarasokha, a bunch of players from Preah Khan Reach, obviously, including Moul Daravorn and Tum Saray, as well as Tith Dina from the National Police, Kirivong's Sos Nasiet, Army's Soeung Chan Vann0 and the military's number 2 keeper Oum Vichet. Fortunately the Phnom Penh Crown squad have been otherwise engaged with the AFC President's Cup and have missed out on all of the fun of the coach's training sessions. The national team will return to training camp at the National Football Center from 20 June pending their opening World Cup qualifier against Laos at the Olympic Stadium on 29 June, though with two Crown games scheduled during that period (on 20 and 25 June), I'm not sure that the Crown boys in the squad will be spotted in camp that much. They then head to Vientiane in Laos on 1 July ahead of their second leg on 3 July and back the next day, ready for the resumption of the C-League programme on Saturday 9 July. The four Crown players who've been invited to join the national team camp are Kouch Sokumpheak, Tieng Tiny, Sun Sopanha and Phoung Narong. Others are conspicuous by their absence. Let's just say I'm not expecting too much from the Cambodian national team in 2011.

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