One aspect of the Cambodian national football team that has been a source of constant worry for head coach Lee Tae Hoon is what he called the “absence of a striker who can terrorise the box and score goals”.
The 40-year-old South Korean tactician claimed he was not so much worried about his team’s backline or midfield ahead of their AFC Challenge Cup qualifier against Macau tomorrow.
“Without being outstanding, they are modest but dependable,” Lee said of his front men. “We need good strikers who can score and create goals on a regular basis.”
The national team has been training under the watchful eyes of Lee since mid January in preparation for the home leg, to be played at 3pm at Olympic Stadium, against the East Asian minnows. The South Korean coach, who took over the reins from Australian Scott O’Donnell at the end of the league season last year, has been persistent in his demand for the team’s forwards to sharpen their shooting skills.
“We had some harsh lessons to learn from the Suzuki Cup qualifiers in Laos [in October last year] where we lost on goal difference; the most important one being the need to improve on our goal scoring capabilities,” he said.
Cambodia boast two wins (3-1 in 2008 and 2-1 in 2009) from their previous meetings with Macau in the same stage of the competition. Macau have just one victory against Mongolia to show from international matches in the past three years.
However, Lee maintains there should be no room for complacency.
“We have to respect our rivals and their ability – we have to be on our guard,” he said.
The coach noted a lack of preparation time, emphasising the fact that half the team who played in Laos had been filtered out to make room for newcomers.
“[The new squad] are combining well but it takes time for them to make a perfect blend. It will be a stern test on Wednesday as to how well the team is coming along,” he said.
With minor injury concerns seemingly sorted, the coach welcomed the return of key trio Khim Borey, Keo Sokgnorn and Chan Rithy, who currently ply their trade in Thailand.
The action shifts to Macau for the return leg on February 16, with the winner of the qualifying round to join Tajikistan, Maldives and Kyrgyzstan in Group C for the next stage of the tournament from March 20-31.
The AFC Challenge Cup was conceived in 2006 as a biennial event. The winner of the fourth edition, which will conclude next year, will qualify for the 2015 Asian Cup. North Korea won the last year’s edition held in Sri Lanka.
This year’s qualification round, which ropes in eight of the lowest ranking national teams, features Afghanistan, Bhutan, Cambodia, Taiwan, Laos, Macau, Mongolia and the Philippines.