National team general manager Keisuke Honda has been supervising training ahead of Cambodia’s impending FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 & Asian Cup 2023 preliminary group stage double-header. They first welcome Hong Kong to Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium tomorrow before the visit of Bahrain next Tuesday.
In an Instagram post yesterday, he posted an encouraging message, urging fans to come out and support the national team.
“Cambodian National team has been improving a lot, reads the post, accompanied by a picture of Honda directing a training session. “All players play for all people in Cambodia. Please support them!”
Among his first tasks will be to trim the 35-man squad down to a manageable 25. Honda and head coach Felix Dalmas have already caused consternation with fans by leaving out star trio Chan Vathanaka, Prak Mony Udom, and Thierry Chantha Bin.
Honda is widely recognised as among the best Asian players in recent years and has an impressive record in the blue shirt of Japan. He has earned over 90 international caps since 2008, played at the 2010, 2014, and 2018 FIFA World Cup, and won the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, where he was voted Player of the Tournament. Having turned out for the likes of Nagoya Grampus, Spartak Moscow, and AC Milan, he last turned out for Melbourne Victory in the A-League.
He confirmed his retirement from international football following Japan’s elimination by Belgium at the 2018 Russia World Cup last year.
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.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong international James Ha said he was wary of the threat opposed by group underdogs Cambodia.
“Cambodia are supposed to be the weakest team but they have made big strides in recent times,” Ha told the South China Morning Post. “Soccer is 11 against 11 and it’s difficult to predict the result of any match even if you appear to have the upper hand.”
Ha, dubbed ‘Bullet’ for his pace with the ball at his feet, learned about Cambodia through Kwoon Chung Southern club teammate and Pakistan international, Zesh Rehman.
The Angkor Warriors stamped their ticket for the group round after defeating Rehman’s Pakistan 4-1 on aggregate in June.