The Blue Tigers ran out victors in their last meeting.
India is all set to start off their AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia on 8th June. The game will take place at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. Igor Stimac’s men have been training in Bellary, Kolkata, and Doha for the last few months. The Blue Tigers are no strangers to the Angkor Warriors as this will be the sixth time that they clash.
It will be followed by matches against Afghanistan and Hong Kong in this third round of qualification for the AFC Asian Cup. Sunil Chhetri returned to the squad against Jordan after missing the previous two friendlies due to injury.
Cambodia are currently ranked 171 in the FIFA rankings. However, given India’s goalscoring woes, they could yet prove to be a tough match.
Cambodia’s last outing was quite a while back. Their last international fixture saw them lose to Vietnam in the group stages of the AFF Championship in 2021. The game ended in a 0-4 rout as they bowed out of the competition. They will be playing against Timor-Leste on 2nd June and hope to oil their gears ahead of the all-important Asian Cup Qualifiers opener.
About the Team
Currently ranked 171st in the FIFA rankings, Cambodia have not had much luck in the international scenario. Their best result so far was in the Asian Cup in 1972 when they finished fourth. Apart from that, they made it to the group stages of the AFC Challenge Cup in 2006 but could only make it as far as the group stages. Seven appearances in the AFF Championship seem to make it their best competition record.
However, they have been unable to overcome their group stage hoodoo as they have been knocked out on all occasions. Cambodia also came last in their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Group. The Angkor Warriors suffered two extraordinary defeats to Iran, first 14–0 in late 2020 and then 10–0 in June 2021.
Their squad has primarily Cambodian league players with the exceptions of one Malaysian league player and one Indonesian League player.
Cambodia is jointly managed by Japan’s World Cup top-scorer Keisuke Honda and Ryu Hirose. While Honda is still plying his trade with FK Suduva in the Lithuanian League, his co-manager is also in charge of the Cambodian U-23 squad.
Though the former has had an illustrious career, his managerial prowess has not exactly matched that. With only wins against Guam and Laos, Cambodia have not exactly been the best of teams.
Ryu Hirose prefers to line his players up in a typical 4-3-3 flat formation. As was evident in their last game, their formation is a balanced one featuring three central midfielders.
Players to Watch
Cambodia’s 26-year-old captain has been in the fray for the national team for some time now. With 62 caps and four goals, the experienced Preah Khan Reach FC defender leads from the back.
He has scored against the likes of Brunei, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Iraq and can prove to be a set-piece threat. Visal’s original position, however, makes it more of a challenge to bypass him than being concerned about him being a goalscoring menace..
Prak Mony Udom
Preah Khan Reach FC’s star forward is another one of Cambodia’s national team jewels. The versatile winger is known for his pace, skills, and goalscoring ability. He won the FFC best player of the year award in 2017 and Hun Sen Cup Golden Boot in 2015. He also holds the laurel for being the joint-fifth top goalscorer for his country with 11 goals.
The 28-year-old is only two caps behind his club and international teammate Visal with 60 appearances for the national team.
Sokpheng is undeniably Cambodia’s biggest weapon in the current squad. The versatile striker can also be deployed in a wider role as a winger and trouble defences with his shifting positions. He plies his trade with Cambodian C-League team Visakha and is also the national team’s joint third-highest scorer with 12 goals.
He promises to be a troublesome forward for the experienced Indian backline that Igor Stimac has fielded.
What to expect
Cambodia’s break from international football is something India must look to capitalise on. While they are going to play Timor-Leste, India has played far more games in this period. Accordingly, Stimac must have an attack-minded approach as he cannot allow his team to sit back as they did against Jordan. The likes of Sahal Abdul Samad, Anirudh Thapa, and Glan Martins must be allowed to be on the ball for more time.
Though Cambodia can counter through the likes of Sokpheng and Udom, India has the arsenal to deal with them. Fielding more attacking fullbacks like Naorem Roshan Singh in place of Pritam Kotal while also getting forwards like Liston Colaco involved will be key. Especially, now that Chhetri has returned, Manvir and Colaco would have acres of space and the license to get into dangerous goalscoring or creating positions.