FRIDAY is Cambodia’s national day, and their football players are all fired up to beat Malaysia in their AFF Suzuki Cup opener at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium tomorrow.
Malaysia coach Tan Cheng Hoe admitted that the Cambodians will be strongly motivated for a victory to give their compatriots more reasons to celebrate their national day.
The Malaysian coach is under no illusion of the challenge awaiting the Harimau Malaya.
“We want to get a good start with a positive result. It will not be easy to play in Cambodia because of the expected big crowd, so we have to be ready to face the pressure,” said Cheng Hoe.
Malaysia captain Zaquan Adha Abdul Razak said: “What is important is that everyone in our team gives 100 per cent.
“The first game is always important and we are hopeful that everyone is motivated to do well.”
Nonetheless, Malaysia have the psychological advantage of having conquered the Angkor Warriors 3-1 in a friendly two months ago at the same artificial pitch.
Cambodia will be without their new team manager, the Japanese legend Keisuke Honda. He still has a playing contract with Australian club Melbourne Victory, and is needed for an A-League match on Sunday.
Taking over the reins is coach Felix Gonzalez Dalmas who played down the absence of Honda in today’s opener.
"Of course Honda is an important part of the team. Even though he's not here, he's still communicating and having meetings with us,” he said.
Though Cambodian star Thierry Chanta Bin plays for Terengganu in the M-League, and thus has knowledge of Malaysian football, Dalmas said this would not give any significant advantage to his team.
Malaysia are in Group A with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. Coincidentally, Malaysia also opened their campaign two years ago against Cambodia and won 3-2.
Probable Malaysia XI: Khairul Fahmi, Syahmi Safari, Shahrul Saad, Aidil Zafuan, Syazwan Andik, Akram Mahinan, Syamer Kutty Abba, Safawi Rasid, Zaquan Adha, Syazwan Zainon