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Cambodia to resume World Cup campaign in October

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
Members of the Cambodian national football team practice for their upcoming matches. KT/Yeun Punleau

The Cambodian national football team is in for an uphill climb when it faces Bahrain and Iran in the 2020 World Cup qualifiers in October.

Cambodia was originally scheduled to face Bahrain on March 26 and Iran five days later, but the coronavirus pandemic forced their postponement.

Based on the new schedule released by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association or FIFA a few days ago, the Cambodia versus Bahrain match will be played at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Isa Town on October 8. The Cambodian team would then be matched against Iran at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh five days later.

Bahrain is the slight favourite against Cambodia. Despite being the dominant side, the Middle Eastern team struggled to score against Cambodia before and was only ‘saved’ by a late goal from midfielder Kamil Al Aswad when the two teams first met in September last year.

In a previous interview with Iran’s Tasnim News Agency, Helio Sousa, the Portugese head coach of the Bahrain team, indicated that his team is well-prepared and has the personnel to tackle the tough challenges ahead.

“There are nine points up for grabs and we’ll do whatever it takes to try and get all nine. Everyone in the squad has assumed their share of responsibility, and they work hard for the national team,” he said.

Iran, meanwhile, is heavily favoured to repeat against Cambodia, with Team Melli stacked with world-class talents. Iranian goalie Alireza Beiranvand is considered to be among the best in the world.

Iran easily swept Cambodia aside, 14-0, in their first qualifying match, which was held in Tehran in October 2019.

But recent turmoil in the Iranian camp plus the fact that Cambodian is playing on its own turf could count in favour of the hosts.

There are rumours the new Iran coach, Dragan Skocic of Croatia, is headed for the exit. Skocic replaced Marc Wimots in February of this year after Belgian resigned over Iran’s disappointing performance in the initial stages of the qualifiers.

Skocic, in a previous interview with Iranian media, said they are not taking all their upcoming opponents lightly, including Cambodia.

Iran, Cambodia and Bahrain are all in Group C, together with Hong Kong and Iraq.

Iraq is leading the group with 11 points, followed by Bahrain (nine), Iran (six), Hong Kong (five) and Cambodia (one).

The winner from each group plus the four best runners-up will advance to the third round of the qualifiers.

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