Cambodia face Myanmar this evening at Yangon’s Thuwunna Stadium in a must-win second Group B game in their AFF Suzuki Cup campaign, albeit amid a media firestorm regarding star striker and exciting young prospect Chan Vathanaka.
After losing their opening group game against Malaysia on Sunday in painful circumstances, it is feared off-field distractions could cause to be the undoing of the Angkor Warriors as speculation mounts over the future of their star striker.
Rumors have intensified after the Boeung Ket Angkor forward’s two-goal salvo in Sunday’s clash, with his club side taking to social media to dismiss media reports circulating both at home and abroad.
“Boeung Ket Angkor FC hereby dismiss rumors around Chan Vathanaka, that some reports that the club has agreed terms with Fujieda MYFC,” read a statement issued Monday on the club’s official Facebook page.
“Fujieda MYFC has formally submitted a request to the club, but the player has yet to make any decision.
“[The club] urges the media to please avoid publishing rumors which could affect the spirit of players, who should be concentrating helping the national team compete in the AFF Suzuki Cup.”
With international football magazine FourFourTwo dubbing the 22-year old as Cambodia’s “version of Cristiano Ronaldo,” Japanese J-3 club Fujieda MYFC, with whom Vathanaka recently completed a week-long training stint, is expected to bid for the young starlet and become the first of Cambodia’s current crop to attempt cracking a foreign league.
As one of the Kingdom’s leading football lights in recent years, and after notching consecutive C-League Golden Boots, he has been linked with moves to the Thai Premier League as well as most recently Vietnamese V.League 1 side Hanoi T&T.
State of play in Group B
Tournament co-hosts Myanmar, like Cambodia, registered a loss in their opening group game and will be looking to vent their frustration in front of their home crowd on a Cambodia side who have proven suspect at the back.
Coach Lee Tae-hoon will be forced to make a decision on whether to re-employ his favored 3-4-3 formation, which was devastated by Malaysia’s Amri Yahya in their last match, or batten down the hatches to strengthen a backline noted as one of the weakest at the competition.
Speaking after Sunday’s loss, the South Korean spoke of his frustration after letting a valuable lead slip. “I’m very disappointed. Despite our best efforts we couldn’t hold on. Our next game is against the hosts Myanmar so it will be much more competitive than before. We will try to the best of our ability.
“It was important that our players got some experience from this game. We don’t have much experience playing in the final rounds and that showed on some of our players today.
“Our players have improved in terms of quality but we lack the winning mentality and spirit.”
A further quandary which will need to be addressed by Coach Lee is whether to continue to place faith in keeper Sou Yaty who conceded three goals in the opener. Rumors surrounding the relationship between the Boeung Ket Angkor keeper and coach Lee have surfaced in the past and Ministry of Defense FC stopper Um Sereirath will be waiting in the wings if Lee chooses to try a different tact against Myanmar.
Cambodia, who are making their first AFF Suzuki Cup appearance since 2008, kick off the sole evening matchup after the other Group B match between group leaders Vietnam and Malaysia earlier that afternoon.
Coach Lee Tae-hoon suggested a lack of experience caused Cambodia to lose their competition opener. Courtesy AFF Suzuki Cup