Three defeats in three months since he took over as national head coach has left Leonard Vitorino wondering how best to get positive results ahead of the AFC Cup group game against Afghanistan at the Olympic Stadium on Tuesday evening after Cambodia went down without a whimper to Indonesia 2-0 in an international football friendly at a packed Olympic Stadium on Thursday evening.
The Brazilian was understandably disappointed at the outcome and perhaps even dismayed by an error-prone performance from his players, but he struck a defiant tone that they will not stay down.
Another sellout crowd in the upwards of 50,000 watched a strong regional team build their own self-assurance after returning to competitive scene from a two-year FIFA ban as they efficiently punished the home side for loose marking, defensive slips and some poor finishing.
The Indonesians are on course to solidify their team ahead of this August’s SEA Games in Malaysia as the ban had prevented them from all other regional goals, and the camp was reasonably happy that the team was gradually kicking off ring rust after being in the shadows for so long.
The opportunity to engage a team as strong as Indonesia was seen by Vitorino as a means of giving his players a stern test ahead of the AFC Cup group game against Afghanistan.
But what the Brazilian saw from the touchline will have convinced him that his players will have to work a lot harder than they did on the pitch against Indonesia if they are to match strides with the physical Afghans.
The first sign of a crack in the Cambodian defence allowed Indonesia’s Dutch-born forward Irfan Bachdim to work his way from the left to a vantage point in front of goal and polish off a right-footed strike.
Within four minutes of that goal past the half-hour mark, Vitorino brought in defender Thierry Chantha Bin to replace Hoy Phalin as Cambodia began to exert pressure on their rivals. The tried and tested Khoun Laboravy went close but the Boeung Ket hat-tricker against Warriors FC in Singapore last week could not get his final strike quite right.
Noun Borey stepped in for Laboravy past the hour and a little later Keo Sokpheng replaced Prak Mony Odom, with Keo Sokgnon also being called upon to take the field in place of Polroth.
While Cambodia struggled to turn promise into a goal, Indonesia managed to chalk up their second deep in injury time when 18-year-old Gian Zola Nugraha smashed in a nearly 30-yard drive with his right foot after substitue Hanif Abdurrauf had put him through.