Cambodian team fly to Indonesia to play in AFC championship
THE Cambodian Futsal team will fly into Jakarta, Indonesia’s hot and steamy capital city this morning for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Futsal Championship qualifiers knowing they have a tough fight on their hands if they are to reach the finals in Uzbekistan in May.
Monsoon rains have been pelting the city of 12 million almost daily, bringing the already notorious traffic to gridlock. At least under the roof of the Indoor Tennis Stadium, the Cambodians will be kept dry as they work on unlocking their opponents in the group stage.
Their first opponents Saturday evening will be Vietnam, coached by 35-year-old Italian Sergio Gargelli. Cambodia’s neighbours have been preparing for this competition with a series of friendlies in Thailand, the last of which was a 3-1 win over ABAC.
Gargelli was appointed in January after the previous coach, Piemkum Pattaya of Thailand, was dismissed following a poor performance in the Asian Indoor Games at the end of last year. Such has been the determination of the Vietnamese to reach Uzbekistan, the squad were made to train through Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, while they were in Thailand.
Sunday sees the Kingdom’s men lock horns with Malaysia, who boast the proud record of having qualified for every AFC Futsal Championship since 1999. A poor showing at the ASEAN Football Federation Cup last year in Ho Chi Minh means confidence could be low in the Malay camp, but outwardly at least they are making the right noises with team manager Datuk Hamidan Amin optimistic they will progress, while at the same time sounding cautious about having to face Vietnam.
Cambodia’s final group stage game plays Monday evening when they take on the Philippines, coached by Iranian Ismael Sedigh.
If the lads manage to finish in the top two of their group, their struggles won’t be over. They will then have to face two from Australia, Indonesia or Myanmar, who will be a bit fresher having only played two games and taken vital rest days.
It’ll be a tall order for Cambodia to qualify from Jakarta against three strong teams. For the first time, players such as Suon Thon and Long Nasy have been plucked from the Cambodian Futsal League and the team have been putting in a lot of preparation over the last few weeks.