National Team - Lions ● Oct 15, 2018

Preview: Lions ready for feisty Cambodia, says Fandi

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SINGAPORE, 15 OCTOBER 2018
The Lions play their final friendly of this international window against Cambodia at Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium on Tuesday night, 16 October. Kick-off is scheduled for 7.30pm, Singapore time.

Background Head Coach Fandi Ahmad has talked about this match as the “toughest” of the four friendlies for the Lions that were announced in July, having already faced Mauritius, Fiji and Mongolia.

Having led the Lions to a second consecutive win on Friday against Mongolia, the first time Singapore have recorded back to back victories since October 2015, Fandi will continue to fine-tune his preparations for the AFF Suzuki Cup with this final international before the team departs for a training camp in Japan.

Twenty four players boarded the plane for Phnom Penh and Fandi is expecting the hosts to be fired up for the clash, having failed to win their two home matches this year – a 3-1 loss to Malaysia last month and a 2-2 draw with Timor Leste three days ago.

But the 56-year-old is confident that his team will rise to the challenge at the 50,000-capacity Olympic Stadium, which is expected to sell out.

“I think at home, they are very strong, very motivated and they have some players who play overseas like Chan Vathanaka, who is very mobile and a key player, and they (also) have some good youngsters in,” Fandi said at the pre-match press conference earlier today afternoon at the Phnom Penh Hotel.

“Cambodia did not get the best result against Malaysia and Timor Leste, and they will come out fighting, which we are ready for… we will give them a good fight.”

Centre-back Safuwan Baharudin added: “It’s not going to be easy for us. Tomorrow’s game is important for us to test ourselves and see where we stand against Cambodia; (it’s also) a realistic test of where we stand before the Suzuki Cup.”

With Captain Hariss Harun and left-back Shakir Hamzah absent, there will be changes to the starting line-up but Fandi is not worried and wants the Lions to focus on making continued improvement from the last three games.

“We are in the process of rebuilding our team and we are trying to give everyone a chance,” he said. “We have capable replacements, we are not here to make up numbers; we want to play

“They (Cambodia) press very high but we are more concerned with our team’s progress than others. We’ve been doing a lot of attacking work.. I still think we can (also) improve more on defending and (tactical) discipline and the final pass in the box for our attackers.

“Overall, we are quite happy with the team’s progress. Cambodia will come (at us) with numbers and this is where we think we can capitalise, in the transition (from defence to attack). I hope we can give a good match and get a good result.”

Cambodia vice-captain Thierry Chantha Bin declared that the Angkor Warriors are ready to redeem themselves at home.

“We are very excited to play Singapore, we know they are a good team and we’ve played against them many times,” the Terengganu FA midfielder said. “We hope it will be a good game for us and for the fans. We want to get a good result for the fans and for us also; we’ve worked hard during our one and a half weeks together. We haven’t won the last two games but we are improving step by step.”

Photo courtesy of Football Federation of Cambodia

Team News At least two changes to will be made by Fandi to fill in for Hariss and Shakir, while Faris Ramli could be in line to start after coming on as a substitute against Mongolia. The likes of Adam Swandi, Shahril Ishak and Khairul Amri will also relish the opportunity to impress if they are involved.

Cambodia have named a strong squad but will be led by Assistant Coach Felix Gonzalez in the absence of Head Coach Keisuke Honda, with the Argentine insisting that there is not much of a difference without presence of the former Japan international.

“The way we ran our training sessions when he was here (and now without him) has not changed much,” he said. “Keisuke is always aware of what’s happening and the players are always aware of Keisuke’s opinions.”

Cambodia’s form The home side have won once in four games this year, which came in a 1-0 success away to Laos in a friendly in March. That was followed by a 2-1 loss away in Afghanistan in 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifying, then the defeat to Malaysia and draw with Timor Leste.

One has to go back to June 2017 for their last victory at home – 1-0 over Afghanistan in Asian Cup qualifying, which was the only time they did not lose in ten matches last year.

Past meetings Singapore edged Cambodia 1-0 the last time we met in November 2016, where Yasir Hanapi grabbed his sole Lions goal. Prior to that, Singapore lost 2-1 in an away clash that July – the only time we have not beaten Cambodia in our last eight meetings.

Keep an eye out for… Ho Wai Loon could deputise for Shakir at left-back and in the process earn his second international cap, having made his debut against Fiji. The dynamic 25-year-old makes up for his small stature with a relentless work ethic and is also capable of playing in midfield if necessary.

Chan Vathanaka is the star man for Cambodia and is very capable of adding to his 14 goals in 40 caps, as the Lions are well aware of – he scored a free-kick in their 2-1 friendly win against Singapore in July 2016.

Safuwan, who was team-mates with Vathanaka during the 24-year-old’s six-month spell at Pahang FA, said: “Technically and tactically, he’s one of the best in the Cambodia squad. He’s one of the main players we have to look out for because he can change the game. If we don’t keep our eyes on him, he can punish us as he can take on men and shoot (from) outside the box.”

What else they said… Safuwan added: “We struggled to beat them in our last two games (against them) so we need to be disciplined as a team; this will be the toughest friendly we’ll face and for us to play tomorrow night, it won’t be easy.”

Gonzalez said of Cambodia’s efforts to revamp their football: “I think we’ve improved in many areas; what I like the most is that little by little, the philosophy is getting ingrained in the players… the attitude they have towards the new system has been improving… little by little we are growing.

“Of course the result matters but how you obtain the result is important (too), so we prioritise the process more than the result because we want the players and Cambodian football to grow. In the next two years, we will do everything possible to advance Cambodian football.”

Chantha Bin added: “We understand what the coach and staff asks from us… we need to focus and try to improve ourselves; football is not only (about what goes on) on the pitch, it’s also outside and we have to take care of ourselves.”

Follow the game The match will be streamed live on the Football Federation of Cambodia’s Facebook page here.