Prak Sovannara was confirmed by the Football Federation of Cambodia as the new head coach of the national team this morning, returning to the position he last held between 2008 and 2009.
The 40-year-old Phnom Penh native also served as assistant coach under Scott O’Donell of Australia from 2005 to 2007.
Sovannara leaves his job as head coach of Naga Corp FC, with whom he led to three runners-up places – two in the Metfone C-League and one in the Hun Sen Cup. Assistant coach Lim Noun will take over the club for the upcoming Cup and league campaigns.
Sovannara said he knew he was the leading candidate for the appointment a week ago but had to wait for the final decision of FFC President Sao Sokha and the FFC executive committee.
“They informed me this morning,” he told the Post.
“I feel very good to be the head coach of the national team. It is the most important job [in Cambodian football], and I feel I have to work for my country.”
Sovannara’s immediate concern is with preparation for their Group E matches of the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, hosted by the Philippines in early March next year. Cambodia will play the hosts, who were knocked out at the semi-finals stage of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup on Wednesday, as well as Brunei and two-time runners-up Turkmenistan.
“Turkmenistan are very strong in Asia and the Philippines are much improved, but I hope we can get good results from the trip,” said the coach.
Sovannara replaces fellow former national team colleague Hok Sochetra, who quit the post in October after a woeful run at the Suzuki Cup qualifiers in Myanmar.
The offer of a year-long contract from the federation will see Sovannara in charge of the team for the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar. The coach claims he has already drawn up a proposal for training sessions and friendly matches in the build up to the AFC Challenge Cup tournament.
“I start my job immediately and hope we can begin training sessions this month or early January,” he said.
“We are lucky, as the schedule of the domestic competitions is not as busy as teams in places such as Europe. We have more time and can hold up to four sessions a week.”
Sovannara also revealed plans to play “at least” four friendlies – two against local opposition, two against foreign sides – before their March endeavour.
When asked whether the national squad would be utilising the $1.2 million National Training Centre located 40 kilometres out of town in Takeo province, the coach admitted they would have to compromise due to travel demands.
“We can train at Olympic Stadium or other grounds around the city,” he said. One such facility is likely to be the artificial mini-soccer pitches of 3G Field, with its owner Khiev Phearith named as the national team’s general manager, replacing the outgoing Vann Ly.
Assistant coaches Ieng Saknida and Meas Channa have been retained, while Phnom Penh Crown goalkeeping coach Prak Vanny, no relation to the head coach, has been drafted in to the national set-up.
Despite Cambodia slumping to 191st in the official FIFA World Cup rankings, the lowest of any nation in the ASEAN region, Sovannara remains confident he will source new talent to push them back up the standings.
“There are some very good young players coming through including two recently moved here from France. Everything will change for the better,” said the coach.
To contact the reporter on this story: Dan Riley at [email protected]