After four successive defeats, three at home and one away in Group E matches during the first half of the World Cup qualifying campaign, Cambodian footballers, hoping for a swing in fortune, are getting ready for the return clash with Singapore at the Lions’ den on Tuesday.
Cambodia is the only side in the group without a win or a goal to its name, having lost to Singapore (4-0), Afghanistan (1-0), Japan (3-0) and Syria (6-0). As disappointing as the results have been, national head coach Lee Tae Hoon is insistent that the team has benefited from the experience of playing at a level it had never reached before.
But the South Korean manager, who has the distinction of being the first to lead the Kingdom past the preliminary phase to this uncharted territory, is demanding from his players a sharper focus and better outcomes in the next set of matches, beginning with the game against Singapore.
Before squaring off against Cambodia at the huge Sports Hub complex in Kallang, Singapore were to take on Afghanistan yesterday at the same venue, in what Lions coach Bernd Stange marked out as a must-win game following his team’s 1-0 loss to Syria away in Muscat.
Moving from the much smaller Jalan Besar Stadium to the 55,000-seater National Stadium was to enable a massive turnout for the Lions, a prospect that sat well with Stange, quoted recently in the Straits Times as saying: “A full stadium of 55,000 fans cheering can be our secret weapon in these matches.”
While uppermost in Lee Tae Hoon’s mind is for his players to break their losing streak, his counterpart would not be willing to settle for anything less than a victory since only the winner of the group is assured of a place in the next stage of qualification.
Syria currently head the table with three wins followed by Japan with two wins and a draw. Singapore are slotted fourth with four points ahead of Afghanistan, whose only win was against Cambodia at the Olympic Stadium on June 16.
Meanwhile, Stange has named former football TV reality show star Christopher van Huizen, a popular name at Malaysian Super League club Lions XII, in his 24 player squad to bolster the wings for the matches against Afghanistan and Cambodia.
The nifty flanker’s inclusion is widely expected to sharpen Singapore’s attacking edge.