Eliminated from Group A after two successive defeats in the on-going AFF Suzuki Cup, at stake for both Cambodia and Laos are pride and picking up positives when they kick off at 6:30pm on Tuesday to give something to shout about for a likely sizeable crowd at Olympic Stadium.
A new coach is at the helm for Laos, who brought in former Singapore manager V Sundramoorthy last month even as Cambodia announced the jaw dropping appointment of former Japan international and current Melbourne Victory midfielder Keisuke Honda to manage the team.
But for both sides, these bold changes have fallen way short of high expectations.
While Honda watched in some discomfort and even with a touch of disgust from the touchline Cambodia’s doleful second half performance that saw them slip from a goal up to eventually go down 4-1 to Myanmar, the Laos coach was also livid that his side let go an advantageous position against the same side after finding Vietnam too hot to handle in the opener.
In their home tie against Malaysia at the start of the Campaign, Cambodia’s numerous missed chances counted for nothing, while the one goal Malaysia got past the Warriors helped them get the crucial three points and keep them in play for a semi-final place.
At a joint news conference at the Phnom Penh Hotel on Monday morning, both coach Gonzalez and his Laos counterpart Sundramoorthy were reconciled to the fact they were out of the reckoning, but they said they still had plenty to work for in the interests of building a stronger future.
“My players are getting used to my philosophy and formations and I hope they will do well,” Singaporean Sundramoorthy said.
Laos missed the tournament proper two years ago after being part of it for 10 successive editions.
His appointment was not entirely without controversy, and one of Laos’ most popular players “”Messi” Soukaphone Vongchiengkham walked out of the national team after the loss to Vietnam where he was an unused substitute.
However, the 26 year old, who has played in four editions and has close to 50 appearances for the national team, has announced his return to the team, saying that he has sorted out his differences with the new coach.
Incidentally, “Messi” Soukaphone cannot play on Tuesday as he is serving a one match suspension after picking up two yellow cards.
For his part, Gonzalez said the long break after the Myanmar game has helped his team train better.
“The rest and preparation will certainly help. I’m looking forward to an exciting game, the Argentine said.”