Cambodia take to the pitch this evening hoping for a positive outcome in their first leg encounter against Chinese Taipei in the 2019 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifying playoff at Kaohsiung City’s National Stadium.
Cambodian head coach was unable to call upon midfield leader Kouch Sokumpheak of NagaWorld FC, who continues to be sidelined after a nasty ankle injury obtained in the C-League clash with CMAC FC early last month.
Also left behind was 17-year old Boeung Ket Angkor FC defender Ly Vahed – who during the Warriors’ 2-0 win against Timor-Leste, had caught the eye of many of the Kingdom’s female fans due to his likeness to Suphanburi FC midfielder and Swiss-Thai footballing star Charyl Chappuis. Tae hoon asserted at Phnom Penh’s Pochentong Airport on Wednesday that Vahed would need to be playing more for his club side if he was to earn a call-up to for the Warrior’s competitive fixtures and instead chose to go with the tried and tested Sos Suhana and Ngoy Srin.
Options in attack leave Tae hoon able to call upon a wealth of talent with Chan Vathanaka, Prak Mony Udom, Keo Sokpheng and Phuong Soksana vying for the chance to join veteran Khuon Laboravy, who scored the second in Sunday’s game. Soksana netted the opener against Timor-Leste and will hope Tae hoon will continue to place faith in the National Police Commissary forward, although both Vathanaka and Mony Udom are expected to be deployed in supporting roles.
Hong Pheng is the wise head at the back for a youthful Cambodian side with the 26-year old Boeung Ket defender joined by club teammates Rous Samoeun and Sok Sovan and a trio of Preah Khan Svay Rieng FC defenders in Nub Tola, Nen Sothearoth and Soeuy Visal. Ngoy Srin of NagaWorld fulfils the remaining slot while Phnom Penh Crown FC’s strong central defender Kok Boris continues to be explicably overlooked by the south Korean tactician.
However Crown, back-to back domestic league champions, can boast no less than three players in Tae hoon’s roster with young goalkeeper Keo Soksela and midfield engine Thierry Chantha Bin joining Sokpheng on the list.
Explaining the inclusion of the yet uncapped Soksela after the teams Sunday win, Tae hoon said the 18-year old showed promise and may yet supplant regulars Um Sereirath and Sou Yaty in his plans. “He may be young but he has showed good performance. He already showed his ability but he will need more experience. This time it may be difficult to give him opportunity in official games, but I will try to give him some playing time in the future.” Said Tae hoon.
Chinese Taipei, like Cambodia, endured a woeful 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign in which they placed fourth in group F in qualification round 2, behind table-toppers Thailand, second-placed Iraq and Vietnam in third.
They went on to lose all six of their clashes with group rivals, while their heaviest defeat came away to Iraq in a 5-1 hammering in the neutral venue of Tehran, Iran last September.
Thursday’s competitors find themselves a lowly 182nd in the official FIFA rankings – down from a recent high of 155 in 2010 – a mere single position ahead of the 183rd ranked Cambodians. Though while Cambodia has grown to become football-mad, the ‘beautiful game’ takes a back seat to both Baseball and Basketball in Chinese Taipei.
Tonight’s tie will be screened live for the Kingdom’s fans after BTV announced it had secured the rights to screen both legs. The return leg will see Cambodia welcome their rivals to Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday June, 7.