Why Was Cambodia Performance So Poor at Suzuki Cup?

Much was expected of Cambodia at this edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup, but how they fared in the biennial event left a bitter taste in the mouths of the supporters of the Angkor Warriors.

It’s nothing new for the Cambodians to underwhelm at major tournaments, but this time was supposed to be different. They came into the tournament with a good mix of youth and experience in their squad headlined by the likes of Chan Vathanaka and Thierry Chantha Bin.But what was more exciting was the name under the dugout for the Angkor Warriors. Japan legend Keisuke Honda was named the team’s head coach back in August and the AFF Suzuki Cup turned out to be the first major tournament that he was to guide Cambodia into.

But in their seventh appearance in the tournament, it was a seventh exit in the group stages for the Kouprey Kampuchea collecting just a win from four games — that too against the group’s whipping boys Laos. So, what exactly went wrong for the Honda-powered Cambodia?

FOX Sports Asia lists three reasons that might have led to the Angkor Warriors’ dismal performance in the group stages.

#3 Failure to come up with a proper game plan

image: https://www.foxsportsasia.com/uploads/2018/11/Honda-2-1.jpg

Every successful team across the globe are the ones that follow a set football philosophy to perfection. Change of tactics once in a while to target the weakness of an opposition could work at times, but a changing game plan and personnel foe each game is not something that works that well in football.

And that is what exactly Cambodia did during the AFF Suzuki Cup and the result doesn’t come as a surprise. Honda, who still plays football in A-League with Melbourne Victory, has left much of the coaching responsibilities to 30-year-old Argentine coach Felix Dalmas and the duo’s management of the national team hasn’t been too praiseworthy.

It seems like ages ago now, but Cambodia began the tournament decently only going down 1-0 to Malaysia in the opener. Lining up in a 4-1-4-1, Vathanaka led the line while captain Kouch Sokumpheak in the holding midfield role kept the Malaysians quiet.

But with Honda in the dugout for the next game against Myanmar, Cambodia went with a 4-3-2-1 formation — that too with Vathanka on the bench. The result  — a 4-1 win for Myanmar — sealed the fate of the Angkor Warriors in the tournament and when they defeated Laos in their next game (using a 4-3-3!), it was too little, too late!

#2 Main players failing to turn up when needed

image: https://www.foxsportsasia.com/uploads/2018/11/069-lagardere-jk1_7781-20november2018.jpg

A team is only as good as its weakest link. And it’s fair to say Cambodia had at least a few weak links at the AFF Suzuki Cup — starting from the first line of defence!

Their goalkeeper Soksela Keo made two mistakes to hand the tie to Myanmar while the defenders in front of him were leaking goals throughout the tournament — conceding nine goals, they were third worst defence in the AFF Suzuki Cup behind minnows Laos and Timor-Leste.

In the midfield, captain Kouch Sokumpheak and Chatha Bin failed to assert any sort of authority while the attacking line misfired largely. The likes of Reung Bunheing was wasteful in front of goal, while promising stars like Keo Sokpheng and Sos Suhana never got going!

#1 A lack of trust in Chan Vathanaka

image: https://www.foxsportsasia.com/uploads/2018/11/030-lagardere-jk1_7416-20november2018.jpg

Cambodia were expected to at least challenge Malaysia and Vietnam for a spot in the semifinals from Group A along with Myanmar. But while Myanmar coach ideated a clear game plan to get the best out of their star man Aung Thu, Cambodia’s treatment of their poster boy Chan Vathanaka was completely different.

The striker proved his worth whenever he was called upon, but he was on the pitch for comparatively little time! He played the full 90 minutes against Hairmau Malaya under Dalmas and gave Cambodia a lead going into the half-time against Myanmar.

But Honda decided to replace the 24-year-old with Chhin Chhoeun while Hey put Aung Thu on the pitch who in turn helped his team turn the tie into a 4-1 victory! Vathanaka has been forced to play out of position recently in the national team and it feels like the current coaching staff doesn’t fancy the striker as much as the public.

But with results not going their way, Honda and Dalmas might soon find it hard to justify their exclusion of Vathanaka!


Read more at https://www.fourfourtwo.com/sg/features/star-coach-exciting-players-whats-bogging-down-cambodia#VKGAL7TFsPGF3iWh.99

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