With two weeks to go for Cambodia’s much-anticipated clash with Asian giants Japan at the Saitama Stadium in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers, the National team will line up today for a friendly against visiting Bhutan as a serious trial of strength.
The tune-up game, marked for a 3.00pm kickoff at the Olympic Stadium, will give head coach Lee Tae Hoon (pictured, Sreng Mengsrung) the best possible chance to configure ideal formations before setting out for another warm up against Laos on August 27 in Bangkok en route to Tokyo for the September 3 encounter with the world’s 52nd ranked team.
There has been unprecedented crowd support for all national fixtures ever since Cambodia achieved a passage to the second round of the World Cup qualifiers for the first time after five failed attempts.
“We expect another a big crowd for today’s match even if it is just a friendly.
The national team has been training very hard and the on going Metfone C League has given the players a chance to keep themselves mentally and physically fit,” Football Federation of Cambodia spokesman May Tola told the Post yesterday.
“The players remain highly motivated keeping in mind the fact that they are playing one of the Asian giants.
Cambodian football had never seen this high level of support from the People in the last few decades and the squad is well aware of that overwhelming national pride,” May Tola said.
Meanwhile, coach Lee Tae Hoon is placing huge importance on the game at hand as a stress test for players to prove their worth while giving himself an edge in making crucial tactical judgments.
“No amount of preparation may be enough when you face a team like Japan.
We very well know how strong they are but we will do all we can to make the contest lively and competitive.
It is an uphill task but we will do our best,” the South Korean strategist said.
The visiting Bhutan will also be on the look out for some positives as the team strives to build up its own strength.
The mighty Japan have appeared in the past five World Cups, one of which the country co-hosted with South Korea in 2002.
This year so far has been a turbulent one for Japanese football.
Apart from internal J-League related troubles, the country suffered a shock defeat in a penalty shoot-out at the hands of United Arab Emirates in the Asian Cup.
But it was the goal-less draw against Singapore ranked 100 places below them on the FIFA rankings in the opening Group E match at home on June 12 that has greatly hurt the Japanese pride.
Cambodia lost its first two home matches to Singapore (4-0) and Afghanistan (1-0) on June 12 and 16 respectively. Cambodia will host Syria on September 8 at the Olympic Stadium.
Singapore lead Group E with four points, followed by Syria and Afghanistan, level at three points each. Japan has one point from that draw against Singapore.