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National team head to Dhaka

Cambodian national team coach Prak Sovannara has named his 18-man squad that will travel to Bangladesh for AFC Challenge Cup qualifying tournament

Photo by:

ANDY BROUWER

The Cambodian National Football team line up for a photo at their training ground Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s AFC Challenge Cup qualifying group matches in Bangladesh.

Cambodian national football coach Prak Sovannara will lead his squad of 18 players into the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying group matches in Bangladesh this weekend with the belief that his unfancied team can qualify for next year's finals in India.

"We have a real chance to qualify, and I believe we can do it," said the 36-year-old at the team's training headquarters at the National Football Centre in Phnom Penh Monday. "We don't know too much about Bangladesh, though they are the home team so we know they will want to win. We know how to play against the other two teams, Myanmar and Macau, and I feel we can beat both of them if we play to our ability. My target is two wins and a draw. That should see us through."

Prak Sovannara, who is working without a contract after his original agreement ended following the AFF Suzuki Cup finals in Indonesia in December last year, has just returned with his squad from a two-week training camp in Vietnam where they honed their fitness with three practice matches against local opposition.

"It was a good test for the players and very successful in my view," he said. "I was able to keep the squad together for nearly two weeks and my main priority was that we bonded together as a team, as a unit, with one mind. That's so important. I try to get the players to understand how to cope with hard training, to change their attitudes and their lifestyle, their surroundings, everything really.

"They can see the benefit especially when they get the chance to travel abroad to Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh," he added.

Photo by: ANDY BROUWER

National team head coach Prak Sovannara talks to his players during a training session.

 TEAM SELECTION

  1. Samreth Seiha – Goalkeeper
  2. Kim Chanbunrith (Captain) Defender
  3. Lak Raksmey - Defender
  4. Tieng Tiny - Defender
  5. Om Thavrak - Defender
  6. Pok Chanthan - Midfielder
  7. Khim Borey - Forward
  8. Keo Sokngorn - Forward
  9. Teab Vathanak - Forward
  10. Kuoch Sokumpheak -

    Forward

  11. Khoun Laboravy - Midfielder
  12. San Narith - Midfielder
  13. Sun Sovannarith -

    Midfielder

  14. Pheak Rady - Defender
  15. Sam El Nasa - Midfielder
  16. Lar Pichseyla - Defender
  17. Ouk Mic - Goalkeeper
  18. Ly Ravy - Midfielder

Cambodia begin their qualification attempt on Sunday with their opening match of three against the group hosts, Bangladesh, at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka. They then have two days to prepare for a game against Macau Tuesday, before facing Myanmar Thursday in their remaining fixture.

A look at the latest FIFA Coca-Cola world rankings reveal that Cambodia have jumped above Bangladesh to 175th spot, with the hosts at 178th while Myanmar are the best-ranked in the tournament at 159th. The minnows of Macau, who beat Mongolia in a pre-qualification last week, are ranked at 195th.

However, rankings can count for nothing when the teams face each other on the pitch this weekend. Prak Sovannara noted that Cambodian players have "very good mental strength and toughness".

"In the Suzuki Cup, even though we conceded goals, we never gave up," he said. "We kept focused and that pleased me very much. The players still need to improve their self confidence when they have the ball. They are physically strong enough, and I was very happy with the players attitude at the last tournament. They believed in what we are trying to achieve and had a belief in me and the football federation."

The national team coach said his team would play it safe considering the lack of familiarity with their opposition.

"For the Bangladesh game we will focus on our defence initially and look to counter-attack until we know how strong they are. We will need at least a draw against them.

"In the Suzuki Cup, I learnt that my players could adapt well to different situations. In the qualifying games we concentrated on attack and scoring goals, while in the finals we had to change tactics and become more aware of our defensive duties, as the [opposition] teams were so much stronger.

"The players didn't let me down," he said with obvious pride.

It clearly means a lot to Prak Sovannara to coach the country he represented for six years in the 1990s, and he is currently working on a month-to-month basis.

"I understand the situation. I understand the stance of the federation who spent a lot of money last year, and I am happy to remain as national coach as I love to work with the team," he concluded, as he donned a shirt and joined his players for a practice session.

With a coach like him committed to improving Cambodia's standing, the nation's footballers are in good hands.

AFC Challenge Cup Qualifying Group matches:

Sunday April 26
Myanmar vs Macau - 4.30pm
Cambodia vs Bangladesh - 7pm

Tuesday April 28
Macau vs Cambodia - 4.30pm
Bangladesh vs Myanmar - 7pm

Thursday April 30
Myanmar vs Cambodia - 4.30pm
Bangladesh vs Macau - 7pm

[All matches to be played at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, Dhaka, Bangladesh]

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