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Honda to lead Warriors charge against Pakistan

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Thierry Chantha Bin (left) and Prak Mony Udom (right) are expected to be called up. Courtesy FFC

Cambodia national team general manager Keisuke Honda will lead the national team for their Qatar World Cup 2022 qualification opener against Pakistan next month.

Football Federation of Cambodia secretary Keo Sarath confirmed that Honda will be in place for the first game of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Cambodia – a June 6 date against Pakistan at the National Stadium.

“Although Keisuke Honda is not present in Cambodia [yet], his coach and assistant, Felix Dalmas will arrive [to recruit players], said Sarath. “For the national team selection process, Honda will work with Felix through video before his arrival in Cambodia.”

Pakistan, Cambodia’s June 6 opponents, are ranked 200 in the FIFA World Rankings while Cambodia – arguably favourites for the match – are ranked 173rd in the world.

The June 11 away leg of the first-round tie is expected to be played in Doha. According to reports by Pakistani daily Dawn, FIFA has allocated a venue in Qatar.

“We can confirm the venue for the match has been approved by FIFA,” Dawn quoted a FIFA spokesperson.

Honda recently ended his spell as a player of Melbourne Victory in the Australian A-League.

Melbourne Victory wished their 2018/19 marquee signing well after he turned out in his final game for the club – an AFC Champions League fixture against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

“Honda joined Melbourne Victory in August of 2018 and made an instant impression on his new teammates, fans and the Hyundai A-League as a whole, reads a club statement.

A hamstring injury kept Honda sidelined for nine matches mid-season but the midfielder still made 23 appearances for Victory across all competitions this season, scoring eight times.

“Keisuke has been a professional in every sense of the word, and we’ve been lucky to have him with us at Melbourne Victory this season,” Melbourne Victory CEO Trent Jacobs said.

Keisuke Honda recently called time on his playing stint at Melbourne Victory. Courtesy FFC

“He’s obviously an incredible talent on the pitch, however the impact he’s had on our club off the field has aided our growth this season. He’s been a fan favourite and has drawn new crowds to not only our matches but our digital platforms.

“We thank Keisuke for his services throughout the past year and wish him all the best for the future.”

Commenting on his time in Melbourne, Honda, 32, thanked the members and fans for supporting both him and Victory this season.

“I am proud to have been a Melbourne Victory player and grateful for having the opportunity to play in Australia,” Honda said.

“I leave now for my next challenge but will never forget my time at Victory. I wish the club good luck in the future as they pursue success.”

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.

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