Cambodian football faces a trial of strength in the run-up to December’s SEA Games when the curtain goes up on the 2013 Mekong Region Youth (U23) Tournament for the BIDC Cup at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
Vietnam and Myanmar, both of whom have chosen to field U22 sides, will kick off the Group A opener at 2pm followed by a Group B game at 4pm involving Cambodia and Laos.
An official draw held last week bracketed Vietnam with Myanmar and Thailand in Group A while Group B clustered Cambodia with Laos and Malaysia.
Cambodia, under South Korean Lee Tae Hoon’s second term as head coach, will be eager to paint a positive picture after nearly two years of disappointing results on the pitch.
They were winners of the inaugural edition of the BIDC Cup back in 2009. Myanmar beat Thailand 2-1 in extra time of the final in the 2011 edition.
But for one shining victory over a Malaysian U23 side, Cambodian football has had a rough passage with Lee’s return preceded by the exit in quick succession of two Cambodian coaches – Hok Sochetra and Prak Sovannara.
Those two changes and Lee’s recall indicating clearly the turmoil within and the team’s shaken confidence and resolve.
While the South Korean strategist is not without his critics, he has his own way of dealing with this crisis of confidence.
“I am determined to bring in attitudinal changes in some players,” the national coach told the Post.
“This is a very good window of opportunity to turn things around. I want the players to play a lot harder than they have been doing.
“Every game is important, so it doesn’t really matter which group you are in. I feel the team balance is good and we can work out some good combinations depending on the situations.”
The timing of this event is near perfect for all the contestants as a dry run for the SEA Games. There is a rest day after every set of games with the final slated for November 10.
The tournament is sponsored by BIDC, a Cambodian based subsidiary of Vietnamese Bank BIDV, which has pitched in $220,000 towards the running costs.
Cambodia’s BIDC Cup Squad
Samrith Seiha (Naga Corp), Aim Sovannarath (Svay Rieng), Sar Sophea (Svay Rieng)
Nhem Sovannara (Kirivong SSC), Sok Rithy (Naga Corp), Nen Sothearoth (Svay Rieng), Touch Pancharong (Boeung Ket), Khiev Vibol (Boeung Ket), Sok Sovan (Boeung Ket), Keo Sokpheng (Boeung Ket)
Tum Saray (Svay Rieng), Prak Mony Udom (Svay Rieng), Chhun Sothearath (Boeung Ket), Chan Vathanaka (Boeung Ket)
Keo Sokngorn (Boeung Ket), Ros Sam Oeurn (Boeung Ket), Sos Souhana (PP Crown), Bin Chantha Thierry (PP Crown)