Nearly three weeks after Leonardo Vittorino’s unceremonious exit, veteran coach Prak Sovannara has been recalled for his third stint at national level as an “ad-hoc replacement” to lead Cambodia in this evening’s international friendly with Myanmar and the Asian Cup qualifier second leg against the visiting Jordan in a Group C encounter next week.
As the first coach from the Kingdom to earn an Asian Football Federation A licence, the softly spoken Sovannara received praise after he led the national side to AFF Suzuki Cup qualification during his first term in 2008.
He left a year later but was back for a second stint in late 2012, after being named coach of the season while in charge of Naga the year before. During those 10 months in charge of the national side, there was not much activity and he lost the two matches he guided from the dugout.
The 45-year-old Sovannara told a press conference at Olympic Stadium yesterday morning that he was happy to be back even though he had been asked by the Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) to take care of just the next two matches.
“So many people asked me as to why I accepted this offer since both matches are tough ones to deal with technically and physically. I think it is risky, but at the same time it is a challenge I relish. It is a great opportunity for me to pull the national team back in the right direction,” Sovannara said.
“My philosophy of football is results-oriented. I want good results from these two games and I expect the players to do their best. Is there a possibility that I could go on beyond these games? Perhaps yes, but that is up to the federation to decide and my job is not to think about it now but to do well in the time I have.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the FFC categorically stated that Vittorino’s stint had been terminated officially on October 20, eight months into a one-year contract.
“We took an overall view of his performance, and not just the results, and came to the conclusion that he had failed to unite the team towards achieving positive results,” the spokesman said.
The Brazilian had clearly run out of ideas and excuses as the national team suffered one defeat after another, he added.
The spokesman also argued that Vittorino’s claims of discord and player indiscipline within the team had not been conclusively proved, while his frequent assertions that he was shaping a team for the future did not pass muster.
Asked whether the FFC would extend Sovannara’s services past these games into the next calendar year, the spokesman spoke of patience.
“We have no national team engagements until at least the end of March next year. So we have quite a lot of time to assess the situation and arrive at a decision. The executive committee will have discussions on this issue,” he said.
Both Sovannara and his Myanmar counterpart Gerd Zeise stressed the importance of this friendly for their bigger targets on Tuesday when Cambodia host Jordan and Myanmar travel to Goa for a tilt at India in the Asian Cup third round qualifiers.
“I hope the players follow the strategy we have set out and work for a positive result. It is always the best team that wins,” said Germany’s Zeise, who has been in charge of the team since 2015.
Myanmar drew their previous Group game against Kyrgyzstan at home 2-2 on October 10, while Cambodia lost 0-5 to Vietnam in Hanoi on the same day.