BOLD PRE­DIC­TION

Cam­bo­dia coach tar­gets a medal

New Straits Times - - Sport - DEVIN­DER SINGH devin­der@nst.com.my

CAM­BO­DIA aim to throw a span­ner into the plans of the more es­tab­lished teams in the Sea Games men’s foot­ball tour­na­ment with an eye on a semi-fi­nal spot.

Their Brazil­ian coach Leonardo Vi­torino has boldly tar­geted a medal for his squad, who are be­ing groomed to ex­cel on home stage when Cam­bo­dia hosts the Sea Games for the first time in 2023.

Vi­torino was only ap­pointed as head coach in March and yet he has led the se­nior side to a 1-0 win over Afghanistan while the Sea Games squad held China 0-0 and beat Philip­pines 1-0 in the AFC Un­der-23 Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fiers last month.

"We had a strong match against Ja­pan (de­spite los­ing 2-0), drew with China and beat the Philip­pines in the qual­i­fiers, so it was good prepa­ra­tion," said Vi­torino in Kuala Lumpur yes­ter­day.

"We have come here to get a medal. Our am­bi­tion is high and I think as foot­ball play­ers we need to work hard to be cham­pi­ons.

"I know we are in the strong­est group but we have a dream and we can make the dream pos­si­ble if we work hard."

Cam­bo­dia open their cam­paign in Group B against the Philip­pines at Se­layang Stadium to­mor­row but if Vi­torino's tar­get is to be achieved, they will also have to grind out re­sults against Viet­nam, Thai­land, Ti­mor Leste and In­done­sia.

"Come and watch Cam­bo­dia and see what we can do," urged Vi­torino, who is con­fi­dent that his tal­ented side can make the last-four for the first time.

"We have play­ers aged 16 to 18, a young group that wants to make his­tory here. We want to pass the first stage and I be­lieve in my team."

It would be a re­mark­able feat if Cam­bo­dia sur­prise the top guns as they have only ever won five matches out of 46 they have played in Sea Games his­tory, in­clud­ing a 3-1 win over Philip­pines in 2015 to fin­ish fourth in their group.

The four other wins came against Laos (1971), Brunei and Myan­mar (both 1997) and Ti­mor Leste (2009).

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