Cambodia depart after Indian loss

Ismail Vorajee / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
About 50,000 fans turned out to see Cambodia face India on Wednesday evening in Phnom Penh. KT / Yeun Punlue

The Cambodian national football team traveled to Jordan yesterday morning for next weeks’ AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 qualifier, reeling from a 3-2 friendly international defeat on Wednesday evening against the visiting Indian national side.
 
While both Khuon Laboravy and Chan Vathanaka were on target for the hosts, it proved to not be enough as coach Stephen Constantine’s Blue Tigers proved to be unperturbed by the approximately 50,000 supporters at Phnom Penh’s National Olympic Stadium on Wednesday evening.
 
Despite inferior possession, goals from Sunil Chhetri, Jeje Lalpekhlua, and Sandesh Jhingan led India to a morale-boosting win ahead of their impending qualification opener.
 
Speaking in the post-match press conference, coach Leonardo Vitorino, for whom the match was his first from the Cambodian dugout, was disappointed that his team was not able to capitalize on first-half chances.
 
“We had so many chances in the first half, so many. Also in the second half but we need to improve and we will improve. When we see the fans and the enthusiasm for football here in Cambodia we have to improve and play for our pride,” said the Brazilian.
 
Captain of the Cambodian side, Thierry Chantha Bin, formerly of Phnom Penh Crown and now plying his trade at Krabi FC in the Thai Premier League Division 2, took to Facebook to express his unhappiness with the final score.
 
“Very sad with the result, always feel we could do better but I know that the team gave its best until the end. Very proud to be the captain of the national team of Cambodia – it’s the best feeling ever. Huge thank you to the coach and staff for their trust,” read the post.
 
The victory came as a shock to many Indian fans, who had not seen their team win an away game in 12 years. Many fans took to Twitter to express their amazement, while some confused fans also, perhaps jokingly, thought India had beaten Cambodia in a game of cricket.
 
For coach Constantine at least, the victory was the perfect preparation for their crunch tie against Myanmar next Tuesday.
 
“Congratulations to Cambodia. I thought they played very well for long parts of the game. Considering they have a new coach and it has been only two to three weeks for him, I think it was a good start for them,” said the Englishman.
 
I think they all played very well. If I was the coach of Cambodia then I would be very happy only after two weeks.”
 
“For us, it was an opportunity to introduce some new players and it was not so easy for us because of the work the Cambodian players did. We played better in the second half and when we scored the third goal we thought we might get another one or two so we got a bit relaxed.”
 
“But the important thing is that we won the game and we do not have any injuries and next week we have a very difficult game against Myanmar.”
 
Cambodia will be up against it in their qualification group opener when they meet Jordan at Amman International Stadium on Tuesday. They will play five further games before qualification concludes on March 28, 2018.
 
The draw for the qualifiers took place in January and placed Cambodia in Group C alongside Vietnam, Afghanistan and group favorites Jordan.
 
Jordan is the strongest team in Cambodia’s qualification group with a FIFA ranking of 107. Vietnam meanwhile, occupies 136th position in the official FIFA rankings, with Afghanistan third strongest at 151. Cambodia, who defeated Chinese Taipei/Taiwan in the second round, is among the lowest-ranked nations to have made it to the third round and is currently ranked at 173.
 
The Angkor Warriors opening home game will be in June, when they will play host to Afghanistan. They will welcome Vietnam in September for their third group game. Both Afghanistan and Vietnam have handed Cambodia defeats in recent competitive regional matches.

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