Prak Sovannara, Cambodia’s newly installed national football team’s head coach, has said players wanting to be regulars in his squad will need to first show they are worth selecting for their club sides.
The esteemed head coach commented after it was revealed Cambodia will travel to neighbours Laos for a warm-up clash ahead of their final AFC Cup group C qualifier against Afghanistan on February 27.
“If they are not being selected for their club sides it doesn’t make sense for me to select them in my squad. They have to be playing and keeping fit during the preseason is a part of this,” explained Sovannara.
It is not Sovannara’s first stint guiding the national squad. He was in charge at the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup qualification, but departed a year later for a return to club football.
He was appointed for a second stint in 2012, before various successful tenures at
Nagacorp, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey and a title-winning season with Boeung Ket Angkor.
He was back at the helm in two successive home defeats to Myanmar and Jordan last year.
His reappointment has been met with much criticism from Cambodian fans, who accuse the Football Federation of Cambodia of looking backwards instead of taking a fresh approach.
“Leadership of our federation is very questionable. Different coaches have different styles,” said one commenter after Sovannara’s appointment was finalised.
“When you choose a coach who coaches players to prepare for a loss even with few conceded goals, we will never win. When you choose a coach who risks to win, hopefully we improve and win in the future. Now what is your position, federation?”
Sovannara has been criticised for his “park the bus” tactics as well as his acceptance of low- scoring defeats rather than the attacking style preferred by many fans.
While Jordan and Vietnam have already ensured qualification to the next stage, Sovannara is now targeting a draw or a win away to Afghanistan to ensure a respectable third place finish in the four-team Group C.
Afghanistan, who play their home matches in Tajikistan due to security concerns, will welcome Cambodia at the Pamir Stadium, in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, later this month.
In their previous meeting in June, Cambodia snatched all three points, securing a 1-0 victory courtesy of a Prak Mony Udom goal.