Khmer Times/Ismail Vorajee Wednesday, 22 March 2017 1022 views

Vitorino eyes victory in opening game

Cambodia will entertain the Indian national football team this evening in an international friendly match at the National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, as newly appointed head coach Leonardo Vitorino seeks to guide the Koupreys to a morale-boosting win ahead of his first match in the top job
 

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Vitorino, who came to the job via spells at Buriram United in Thailand and Lanexang United of Laos and took charge of the national team from South Korean Lee Tae-hoon last month, said his team would be up against a strong Indian opposition.
 

“First of all their [domestic football] league is very strong. They have some great [foreign] players playing there; [Alessandro] Del Piero, [Florent] Malouda, so yes playing alongside these players they will gain experience and surely learn some qualities.”
 

Also their strikers, Sunil Shetri, with a record of 51 goals in 91 games is very dangerous. So we will need to pay attention to their attackers,” added the Brazilian.
 

“Yes, India has a better ranking than Cambodia, and yes they have a stronger league than us. But we have teamwork. Football is not individual quality it is teamwork and if tomorrow we play well we have a chance to win.”
 

The draw for the qualifiers took place in January and placed Cambodia in Group C alongside Vietnam, Afghanistan and group favorites Jordan.
 

Jordan is the strongest team in the group with a FIFA ranking of 107. Vietnam meanwhile, occupies 136th position in the official FIFA rankings, with Afghanistan third strongest at 151. Cambodia, who defeated Chinese Taipei/Taiwan in the second round, is among the lowest-ranked nations to have made it to the third round and is currently ranked at 172.
 

Cambodia will be up against it in their qualification group opener on Monday when they travel to meet Jordan at Amman International Stadium. They will play five further games before qualification concludes on March 28, 2018.
 

The Angkor Warriors opening home game will be June, when they will play host to Afghanistan. They will welcome Vietnam in September for their third group game. Both Afghanistan and Vietnam have handed Cambodia defeats in recent competitive regional matches.
 

Their Indian opponents meanwhile have been drawn alongside Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar and Macau in Group F India head coach Stephen Constantine said he was happy with the outcome of the draw. “We are delighted to be in the draw. We believe that the qualifying campaign was a good lesson for us as it gave us the opportunity to introduce some new players who by now have that little bit of experience of playing International Football,” he told webzine www.the-aiff.com after the draw.
 

“We need to work extremely hard to keep alive our hopes of qualifying,” he added.
 

India start their qualification campaign away to Myanmar next week before hosting Kyrgyzstan in June. The two top-placed teams from each group will join 12 others including Asian heavyweights Iraq, Iran, Japan, South Korea and defending champions Australia, in the final round to be played between January 5 to February 1, 2019.
 

The AFC Asian Cup is a quadrennial tournament, and in 2019 will be hosted in the United Arab Emirates.

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