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Coaches wary ahead of Cambodia-HK clash

Cambodia coach Lee Tae Hoon speaks at a press conference yesterday as his Hong Kong counterpart Kim Pan-gon looks on.
Cambodia coach Lee Tae Hoon speaks at a press conference yesterday as his Hong Kong counterpart Kim Pan-gon looks on. Sreng Meng Srun

Coaches wary ahead of Cambodia-HK clash

Cambodia coach Lee Tae Hoon will be leaning heavily on the experience of his team’s recent training stint in Singapore as the Angkor Warriors seek to overcome a strong Hong Kong side when they meet in a friendly at 6.30pm today at the Olympic Stadium.

Cambodia were high on confidence going into the clash at the Mong Kok Stadium in early September after a four-game unbeaten streak but found Hong Kong too good, losing 4-2 – a scoreline that clearly reflected the superiority of the home side.

Hong Kong’s coach Kim Pan-gon, who was much relieved after breaking a calendar-year losing run with that victory, has a much different perspective when it comes to the return fixture.

“I was surprised by that outcome. I admire the way Cambodia kept fighting. I have noticed a steady improvement in the team and I know we have to be at our very best,” Kim Pan-gon told a press conference in Phnom Penh yesterday in the company of his Cambodian counterpart.

“I can’t tell which of the players who made an impact in the last game will be in the line-up. Some of them will be in alongside four players who were unavailable for that game since they were playing in the Chinese League.

“What I am looking for is to rotate them and try and figure out a sound composition,” the Hong Kong coach said.

But if there is some anxiety in the Hong Kong camp, it is about the prospect of performing in front of an expected 50-60,000 home fans, and the Hong Kong coach was quite candid in admitting that this was huge challenge for his team.

“We have never played before such huge crowds [the Mong Kok Stadium holds 6,769 spectators], and I hope our players will handle this pressure and the environment,” said Kim, who is meticulously preparing his team for the East Asian Cup qualifiers in November.

For his part, Lee Tae Hoon made it clear that this game is of crucial importance to Cambodia coming as it is within days of the AFC Suzuki Cup qualifiers kicking off.

“I feel some of our players played below their best in the first friendly. I expect every player to throw his full weight behind the effort this time.

“We had a fairly good training stint in Singapore, but we need to use that momentum here,” he said. “It was a good experience playing a stronger side like Hong Kong. “We have to learn from our mistakes and keep building our strength.

“I have an open mind and I will try to give as much scope as I can to every player to prove himself,” the South Korean added.

While keeping his expectations modest, Lee Tae Hoon said his overarching ambition in his nearly five and half year association with Cambodian football has always been to steer the national team past the Suzuki Cup qualifiers, a goal no foreign coach has yet been able to achieve.

The last time Cambodia qualified for the regional showpiece was under home-grown coach Prak Sovanara back in 2009.

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