The 30 probables vying for places in the national under-23 football team heading to the SEA Games in Singapore this June will be put on trial tomorrow in a friendly against Phnom Penh Crown, kicking off at 8am at the Western University field.
After a couple of training sessions, the warm up game affords coach Lee Tae Hoon a chance to assess some fringe players in a competitive environment before the team takes a short break for the Khmer New Year celebrations, according to the National team manager Chhaing Pisedth.
The national team preparations resume on April 19, with a camp at the National Football Center at Baty, 40 kilometres from Phnom Penh, that will run right up to the departure of the squad to the Vietnamese City of Hanoi where, apart from training stints, several friendly matches have been arranged with local teams.
While Lee Tae Hoon is hoping for good results in Singapore, where football competition starts much earlier than the official opening, the South Korean strategist is also eager to see Cambodia perform well in the second round of the Asian Confederation’s 2018 World Cup Qualifiers.
The 4-1 aggregate win over Macau in the pre-qualifiers last month hauled Cambodia to the second round in the company of Yemen, India, Timor Leste, Bhutan and Chinese Taipei. These six teams have now joined the 34 highest-ranked teams in the continent.
The official draw to determine the eight groupings for the second round will be held on April 14 at 5pm in Kuala Lumpur’s JW Marriott Hotel alongside the 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers.
By virtue of their higher rankings at the time of the first round of the joint qualification, 34 countries automatically made it to the next stage.
The 34 nations are Iran, Japan, Korea Republic, Uzbekistan, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, China, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Kuwait, the Philippines, Maldives, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, DPR Korea, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Guam and Bangladesh.
The 40 nations will be drawn into eight groups of five teams and compete on a double round robin format with the matches spaced out from June 11, 2015 to March 29 next year.
The group winners and four best runners-up (a total of 12 teams) will advance to the 2019 Asian Cup finals and the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.