Officials at the Cambodian Football Federation say they will release national team squad selection for the upcoming visits of Hong Kong and Bahrain, after the conclusion of the quarter-final stage of next week’s domestic Hun Sen Cup.
In July, Cambodia were drawn in group C – alongside Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong and group favourites Iran – for the second round of the Asian qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
With the kingdom playing two group games next month, Cambodia first welcome Hong Kong to Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium on September 5, 2019 before the visit of Bahrain on September 10, 2019. Round 2 matches will be played between 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.
Regarding team selection, the coaching team of head coach Felix G. Dalmas and general manager Keisuke Honda have kept their cards close to their chests. During the first stage of qualification, a double-header against Pakistan – the omission of national team starlet Chan Vathanaka was met with consternation by many on social media.
The Argentinian was subsequently forced to defend the omission saying that selection was a carefully thought out process.
Despite missing Vathanaka, Cambodia stamped their ticket for the group round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 & AFC Asian Cup 2023 Joint Qualifiers after defeating Pakistan 4-1 on aggregate in June.
In media interviews, head coach 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 a post-match presser after the defeat of Pakistan.
General manager Honda is expected to lead the national team for their group matches having recently ended his spell as a player of Melbourne Victory in the Australian A-League.
The duo will be eager for an improvement over their 2018 World Cup qualifying bid where the Angkor Warriors slumped to eight defeats in eight games, conceding 27 goals in the process. Led by South Korean coach Lee Tae-hoon, they scored just once through Sos Suhana in their 2-1 loss to Singapore. With 0 points, they finished rock bottom of Group E below Afghanistan.
For other Southeast Asian nations, the draw looks particularly tricky. Group G will be an interesting one to watch with four Southeast Asian teams crossing paths. Joining the quartet is the group’s top seed, United Arab Emirates, who aim to seal their World Cup return.
While the Italy 1990 participants are the highly-favoured side, they cannot underestimate their competition. Both Thailand and Vietnam pose a threat considering their impressive displays in this year’s AFC Asian Cup, while Indonesia and Malaysia can spring a surprise or two.