Hosts India expressed their ambition to win their June 8 opening match of Group D of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 final qualifier against Cambodia. The match is scheduled to kick off at 10pm at Salt Lake Stadium, and India see it as the first step to achieving their goal of securing a place in the finals.
India’s coach Igor Stimac has already analysed the abilities of the four teams in Group D, calling Afghanistan the strongest opponent and also mentioning the Hong Kong team, who are rich in talented foreign players.
The Cambodian national team were overlooked by Stimac, and for the opening match, the head coach is focused on grabbing three points.
The Croatian manager will use the opening match to strengthen the spirit of his team and push them to play to a higher standard before they meet Afghanistan and Hong Kong, who will meet each other on the same day, and compete for three points of their own.
“We are very excited that the games are coming. It will be a great opportunity for us to push for our goals and to build extra strength in the players’ legs, hearts and minds. Naturally, we’ll also be trying to win,” Stimac told a pre-match press conference on June 7.
“We are in a good position and will try to create many chances and score goals against Cambodia. We are concentrated on the game and will use it to find out where our standard is at the moment. We are not only focused on the result, but will use the game to develop our team and to learn also,” he added.
In their previous meetings, the Indian national team defeated Cambodia 4-0 in the Merdeka Tournament in 1964 before losing 3-1 to Cambodia in the first qualifying round of the AFC Asian Cup in 1967. But in their last two head to heads, India beat Cambodia 6-0 in the 2007 Nehru Cup before going on to record a 3-2 win in a 2017 international friendly match in Phnom Penh. Cambodia’s two goals were scored by Khuon Laboravy in the 37th minute and Chan Vathanaka in the 61st minute. Thierry Chantha Bin led the team on that occasion.
However, the Kouprey side are confident with what they have done in the past, and assistant coach Phea Sopheaktra claimed that Cambodia will play confidently and embrace their new system to find a victory for the nation.
The Cambodian man said in a press conference on the same day: “We are very pleased to be playing against India again, as the two teams have not met for many years.”
Sopheaktra continued: “We believe that the Cambodian team will play with confidence in our new style and system and will use the match to identify the strengths and weaknesses we have with our new formula. We are determined to play our best to bring victory to our nation, for our people across the country.”
The former Ministry of Defense coach added: “For this match, our team will do well. When it comes to our form, I would like to ask all of our fans to watch us closely if they want to understand our new direction. We will play with confidence, and will be satisfied if we can earn one point.”
The Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) has prepared a $160,000 package for the Cambodian national football team, who are currently on tour in India to play their final games of the qualifying rounds of the AFC Asian Cup. The bonus package has been divided into two separate parts.
According to the FFC’s announcement, $40,000 of the package will be provided to the national team as initial incentives for their travel to the South Asian country. A further $120,000 will be offered should the team advance to the final stages of the tournament.