Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Anxiety in Japan ahead of Cambodia tie

Anxiety in Japan ahead of Cambodia tie

Anxiety in Japan ahead of Cambodia tie

A high level of anxiety is brewing in Tokyo just as a huge amount of excitement is building up in Phnom Penh as the Cambodian national team, spending the next few days in its final stretch of preparation in Thailand, take on five-time Asian champions Japan at the Saitama Stadium on next Thursday in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers for a ticket to Russia 2018.

Japan stand more than 100 places above the Kingdom in FIFA rankings, so on paper at least the Group E clash is a classic minnows versus the mighty tale and any result other than a home win would cause tremors all over the world.

A long shot Cambodia may well be, but head coach Lee Tae Hoon has one crucial factor working in his favour to throw a shock and that is the turbulent times Japanese football is going through and the self-doubt that has crept into the team.

Rumours were swirling that Vahid Halihodzic might lose his job after Japan returned from the East Asian Cup in the Chinese city of Wuhan after losing to North Korea and drawing with China and South Korea to remain winless in the competition for the first time ever.

The Japan Football Federation, however, stood by the Bosnian, with JPA president Kuniya Daini admitting earlier this month that Japan faced a crisis and something had to change.

This JPA acknowledgement came in response to Halihodzic blowing his top after his side lost to North Korea and taking up the issue of strengthening the team directly with the head of the federation.

Though it was only a second string side that went to Wuhan, a full strength Japan, bolstered by 13-Europe based players was frustrated no end by visiting Singapore in 2018 World Cup qualifying in June, with a goalless draw that shocked the football world.

These two recent results, along with Japan’s exit from the Asian Cup as defending champions in a penalty shootout against the United Arab Emirates earlier in the year, have added a layer of anxiety for the Japanese.

“I want my players to make the best of this great opportunity to play a world class team like Japan.

We have done well to come this far in reaching the second round. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Cambodia’s coach Lee Tae Hoon said.

For Lee Tae Hoon’s counterpart though, nothing less than win would be a total disaster as Japan travel to Tehran to meet Afghanistan on September 8, the day Cambodia will play host to Syria at the Olympic Stadium.

Normally, perhaps Japan would have taken Cambodia lightly but certainly not next week, as Halihodzic will have repeatedly warned his players.

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • US told to refrain from interfering in Sokha case

    Senior Cambodian officials said on Thursday that the US can monitor Kem Sokha’s trial as it wishes but would not be allowed to interfere in court procedures. The point was made in response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments on Wednesday

  • Europe expected to consider EBA efforts, impact

    The government said it expects the European Commission to consider its efforts to comply with the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) regulations and the impact on one million workers should access to the agreement be suspended in February. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation