Cambodia coach targets a medal
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).