The eyes of the Asian football world turned to Malaysia yesterday as Cambodia were drawn in group C – alongside Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong and group favourites Iran – for the second round of the Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
The 34 top-ranked sides in Asia – according to the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking for June – are joined in Round 2 by the six winners of the Round 1 ties (Cambodia, Bangladesh , Guam, Malaysia, Mongolia and Sri Lanka).
The competing nations were drawn into eight groups of five teams, with a side from each of the pots (also determined by June’s FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking) making up the five-team pools.
Cambodia stamped their ticket for the next round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 & AFC Asian Cup 2023 Joint Qualifiers after defeating Pakistan 4-1 on aggregate last month.
In media interviews, Angkor Warriors head coach Felix G. Dalmas said he was more concerned about the continued development of his team rather than immediate results. Dalmas said they will be practical in their approach.
“Our goal is to take one step at a time. I am more interested in the growing process. We want to keep going and we want to keep growing,” the 31-year-old Argentinian told reporters in the post-match presser.
Cambodia national team general manager Keisuke Honda is expected to lead the national team for their group matches alongside Felix Dalmas, the nation’s head coach. Honda recently ended his spell as a player of Melbourne Victory in the Australian A-League.
Football observers from around the world reacted with a mixture of astonishment and bemusement after Honda was unveiled as Cambodia’s general manager last August.
He was handed a two-year unpaid contract although he also drew condemnation from Human Rights Watch for his association with the General Sao Sokha-helmed Football Federation of Cambodia.
Round 2 matches will be played from 5 September 2019 through 9 June 2020.
The group winners and four best runners-up (12 teams in total) will advance to the third round of Asian World Cup qualifying. Those 12 sides will also automatically qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup, with the next best 24 teams competing in a separate qualifying competition to determine the remaining sides that will take part at China 2023.