New faces and stars blend in Cambodia squad to face Laos and Afghanistan

Star Cambodia forward Chan Vathanaka celebrates after scoring Cambodia’s winner in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifier against Timor-Leste at Olympic Stadium on October 21, 2016.
Star Cambodia forward Chan Vathanaka celebrates after scoring Cambodia’s winner in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifier against Timor-Leste at Olympic Stadium on October 21, 2016. Sreng Meng Srun

National head coach Prak Sovannara has called up eight new faces, including two goalkeepers, in his 23-member squad, while summoning four experienced stars currently involved in the Malaysian top flight this season for Cambodia’s international friendly against Laos on March 21.

The same squad will travel for the Angkor Warriors away AFC Asian Cup qualifying Group C clash against Afghanistan at a neutral venue in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on March 27.

In keeping with his well-advertised drive to give talented young players the right break at the right time, the 44-year old tactician, who was the first from the Kingdom to obtain an AFC A licence, has cast his eye on several youngsters who have shown promise at club level.

The head coach has picked Keo Soksela of Visakha FC and Oum Odoum of Svay Rieng in goal instead of Boeung Ket’s vastly experienced Cambodia No1Sou Yaty.

Other newcomers include defenders Sath Rosib of Boeung Ket and the Phnom Penh Crown pair of Ouk Sovann and Yue Safy.

In midfield, Sovannara has brought in Sok Heang of National Defense Ministry and Sin Kakada of Crown, while surprise choice Mat Noron of Electricite du Cambodge has the chance to rub shoulders with some of the country’s most experienced forwards.

Malaysian Super League quartet

A Football Federation of Cambodia source familiar with the selection process indicated to The Post that Sovannara had done his best to meticulously blend youth and experience to build the team for the future.

In some of his choices of youth there is a clear indication that he has April’s regional Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy U21 tournament in Brunei in his sights.

As widely anticipated, Sovannara has brought in the services of Cambodian star forward Chan Vathanaka of Pahang FC, Negeri Sembilan winger Prak Mony Udom, PKNP FC striker Keo Sokpheng and Teregganu midfielder Thierry Chantha Bin, all of whom moved to the Malaysian Super League at the start of the season.

Cambodia travel to Laos for a tune-up game before taking on Afghanistan to wind up an almost one-year campaign in their Asian Cup qualifying Group C.

Cambodia won the first leg against Afghanistan 1-0 in Phnom Penh last June for their only victory in the third round of qualifying, having lost double-headers against Jordan and Vietnam.