A common goal but differing priorities mark today’s international friendly between visiting Singapore and Cambodia at the Olympic Stadium, which is again expected to draw a capacity crowd in keeping with recent trends.
Singapore and Cambodia will be looking forward to the official draw of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup on August 2 in different lights, even as they begin their preparations to do well in this much coveted regional event.
While Singapore are among the seven countries in the tournament proper, to be hosted from November 19 to December 17 jointly by Myanmar and the Philippines, Cambodia will be staging the qualifiers in mid-October to fill the one remaining spot in the knockout stage among four countries, with the others being Brunei, Laos and Timor-Leste.
At a joint media conference held yesterday morning at NagaWorld, Cambodia head coach Lee Tae Hoon and his Singaporean counterpart Varadaraju Sundramoorthy laid out their perspectives as to what this game means in terms of early preparations and team dynamics.
Singapore and Cambodia met twice during the second round of the World Cup Qualifying cycle with the city-state edging a tight home game 2-1 after winning the game at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium 4-0 months earlier.
“I watched the Cambodian team play in Singapore. They played well and this is a team that has been developing well. But my thoughts are on how I can use this game to prepare my team for the AFC Cup,” said Sundramoorthy, who took over as head coach two months ago from German Bernd Stange.
“Our main focus is to open the door for new players and this game will be [such an occasion], just like on our recent tour of Japan. “Six players who played both those World Cup qualifying games against Cambodia are not here either because they are playing elsewhere or injured,” he said.
“We are taking our preparations very seriously, working on areas we need to work on and finding the right team balance. Every one is fighting hard for their places, at the same time pushing one another yet staying strong as a unit,” the Singapore coach said.
Singapore came away from their tour of Japan with a loss and a win in their first two friendlies. The Lions were beaten 3-2 by Niigata University of Health and Welfare (NUHW), before they won 2-0 against Japan Soccer College (JSC).
Cambodia coach Lee Tae Hoon is aiming to be the first foreign coach to take the Kingdom past the qualifying stage of the Suzuki Cup after the only successful attempt under Prak Sovannara in 2009.
Lee Tae Hoon said: “The concentration level in the team is not what I would have wished for. It is a bit low at the moment. Injuries to key players like Prak Mony Odom, Chan Vathanaka and Nub Tola could affect our team formations. But we will try hard against a team that is definitely stronger than us.”
The South Korean strategist, who now has the distinction of being Cambodia’s second longest serving foreign coach, pointed out that the ongoing league has restricted national team preparations.
“With the means and time available, I am doing my best to get the team balance right. I have discussed with the federation the possibility of the national team going through a special training camp for a month or so as part of preparations before the qualifiers,” he said.