Newly appointed national head coach Leonardo Vitorino of Brazil faces his first real test today when he leads Cambodia out for a friendly against India at the Olympic Stadium, with both sides eager on the perfect warm-up before their 2019 AFC Asian Cup third-round qualification campaigns begin next week.
Ranked 173rd in the FIFA rankings, 41 places below India, the home side will have a tough challenge, but the return from overseas league commitments of precocious striker Chan Vathanaka from Japan and tough defensive midfielder Thierry Chantha Bin from Thailand will have strengthened the Brazilian’s hand.
The common cause in both camps is a desire for a positive performance as they prepare to embark on the Asian Cup group stage qualification road that will take Cambodia to Jordan and India to Myanmar on Tuesday.
While Cambodia suffered a 7-2 drubbing at the hands of Saudi Arabia at home in a January friendly, India take to the pitch after a break of seven months following a 4-1 win over the higher-ranked Puerto Rico last September.
With a five-game losing streak for the national team at the back of his mind, Vitorino will be looking for a turn-around while using the first full game since he took over earlier this month to explore the strengths of his side.
Vitorino told reporters at a press conference at Olympic Stadium yesterday: “This match will be a good chance for all Cambodian players to prove themselves for the national team.
“India are good in attack and they have an experienced coach, but we will show our fans what we can do. I believe in my players and the intelligence they have to understand the way of playing I have instructed them to.
“India are tall and strong and they have good technique but what we have is teamwork. If we play as a team, we will get a result. “And I am proud to have such good quality players as Chan Vathanaka.”
India’s English coach Stephen Constantine said: “I wish [Vitorino] success as Cambodia coach but . . . I don’t think his side will have much luck [today] because we have come here to win not lose.”
“We will be fully focused on this match because it is an important game before we meet Myanmar in our Asian Cup qualifier.”
The game kicks off at 6pm and will be broadcast live on BTV News.
Additional reporting by Chhorn Norn