Cambodia head coach Lee Tae Hoon struck a guardedly optimistic note about his team’s chances against Macau in today’s first round home fixture in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers set for a 4pm kick-off at the Old Stadium.
Cambodia will travel to Macau for the away leg, to be played at the Estadio Campo Desportivo in Taipa island on March 17 Cambodia and Macau are among the 12 lowest ranked teams in Asia setting off a qualification process that involves 208 teams from six confederations that will run right up to November 2017.
Ranked between 35 to 46 in Asia, these 12 teams will play home and away fixtures. The other five regional pairings are Yemen against Pakistan, East Timor vs Mongolia, India take on Nepal, Sri Lanka play Bhutan and Taiwan face Brunei. All the six return leg matches will be played on March 17.
The winners of this round will advance to a 40-team group stage, which starts in June. The world’s governing body will then hold the main World Cup qualifying draw on July 25 in St Petersberg.
Addressing a media conference at the Sunway Hotel in Phnom Penh yesterday, Lee Tae Hoon echoed the sentiments of his Macau counterpart Joseph Tam Iao San that qualification to the next round would be of paramount importance. But the two strategists saw the contest in totally different light.
“We don’t know Macau’s playing style and my top priority will be to see that we do not give away a goal first.
“We have to exploit the home advantage and get into a comfortable position when we play away in Macau,” noted Lee Tae Hoon, who was only a few months into his first term when he saw Cambodia beat Macau 3-1 at home but lose 2-3 away in the AFC Challenge Cup four years ago.
“We have no high-profile player that we can look up to. We have to work hard as a team,” the South Korean said
While the Macau tactician conceded that, on paper and current form, Cambodia looked a better side than his own, Tam Iao San said the team is ready for the challenge.
“Cambodia has been improving over the years under the South Korean coach and their recent win in a warm-up game over a Singapore selection side showed their strength, but we will do our best,” he said.
“We have managed a month’s preparation but only two times a week since it is in the midst of our league season. Back home it is very cool and windy, but here it is hot and humid; that is also another challenge we have to overcome,” the Macau coach said.
One player who could really stir up the Cambodian defence could be 22 year old Leong Ka Hang who plays for Wofoo Tai Po in the Hong Kong super league.
Meanwhile the visiting team’s captain Cheang Cheng Ieong said having seen the video of Cambodians beating Singapore 3-0 in a friendly, he was of the opinion that Cambodian players had a lot of speed and good tactics.
“We have to stoutly defend and make good the scoring chances we get” the Macau skipper said.
Cambodia’s captain, Khun Laboravy hoped that he could inspire his fellow attackers to take control of the game as soon as they possibly could.
In the first round of qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, Cambodia lost 8-6 on aggregate to Laos in what was a bizarre twist of fate. Cambodia won the home tie convincingly 4-2 but were blown away 6-2 in the return leg.