National coach Lee Tae Hoon will be banking on his players to maintain the momentum that has been generated by Cambodia’s four-game unbeaten run in today’s international friendly against the higher ranked Hong Kong at the Mongkok Stadium. The kick-off is set for 8pm local time (7pm Cambodian time).
While the 147th ranked Hong Kong are still looking for their first win this year after some patchy performances in three competitive games, the 180th ranked Cambodia are riding high, especially after a 2-1 home win in a friendly over rivals Singapore.
But as always Lee Tae Hoon has preferred to keep his expectations modest, insisting that the Cambodian team remained a “work in progress” aiming for solidity ahead of October’s AFC Suzuki Cup qualifiers.
No foreign coach has ever taken Cambodia past the qualifying stage of the regional showpiece. Only the Kingdom’s own Prak Sovanara achieved this feat in 2009, for what is the first and only time so far.
The South Korean strategist, having set the bar high with 2018 World Cup second round and final round of the Asian Cup qualifiers, is determined to steer his side to the AFC Cup proper this year.
Before the team’s departure on Monday evening, Lee Tae Hoon made it plain that he would keep an open mind on how best to fill some key positions in the team, thereby giving probables plenty of scope to prove themselves.
“I have a good mix of experience and youth to work with, and my objective is to strike the right balance so that a cohesive unit could be formed. We do need individual brilliance but at the same time we need those talented individuals to blend as one with others”, the national side’s coach pointed out during a practice session.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s head coach Kim Pan-gon has assembled a strong squad as the side from the Chinese Special Administrative Region prepares for the East Asian Cup qualifiers and next year’s Asian Cup qualifiers. Pan-gon will also be anxious to break the team’s long losing streak.
In his pre-match remarks Pan-gon described Cambodia as a very capable side and so his players will have to bring out their A-game to the encounter.
The Hong Kong coach hinted he would use the match as an opportunity to try out various midfield and attacking combinations as well as keeping an eye on the full-back pairing.
With the Metfone C league season winding up on September 10, the return fixture against Hong Kong at home on October 6 assumes added significance coming as it does within days of start of the the AFC Suzuki Cup qualifiers.