Qualifying Preview: Cambodia vs Laos

Old rivals Cambodia and Laos do battle on Saturday with both teams having high hopes of making the group stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Cambodia go into qualifying hoping to capitalise on home advantage in their quest to make the group stage for the first time since 2008.

Preparation has been a mixed bag for South Korean coach Lee Tae-hoon’s squad with a 2-0 defeat to Hong Kong followed by last Sunday’s emphatic 4-0 victory over Sri Lanka.

The win, thanks to goals from Soeuy Visal, Thierry Chantha Bin and Keo Sokpheng (2), was still not enough for Lee, who said he was unhappy with certain aspects of the Angkor Warriors’ play.

Lee’s young squad put in some impressive home performances during the 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Afghanistan, Singapore and Japan, and despite narrow losses, Cambodia are hoping that cheered on by big crowds in the 50,000-capacity Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium they will have enough quality to secure a berth in the group stage.

Laos, meanwhile, enter the tournament on the back of a two leg loss to the Maldives in the 2019 Asian Cup qualifying playoffs.

Coach Valakone Phomphakdy’s men were thrashed 4-0 in the first leg in Male, but were denied a confidence boosting win in the return match on Tuesday when the visitors grabbed a stoppage-time equaliser to cancel out Khonesavanh Sihavong’s 80th minute strike.

Having participated in every group stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup since it began and having successfully qualified on the last five occasions since the round made its debut in 2006, Laos will want to continue that run.

It could prove tough though, since the Laotians have won just once in 14 international matches since the last edition of the tournament in 2014. That victory was a 2-1 friendly win over Cambodia in August 2015, a result they would love to repeat on Saturday.

Man to watch: Khampheng Sayavutthi (Laos)
Laos will be hoping that the experienced frontman and captain will have recovered from an injury suffered in the draw against the Maldives to once again be focal point of the Laos attack as they battle for the qualifying top spot.

The 30-year old striker will be eager to add to his impressive goal tally at international level, which has seen him register 15 goals in 40 appearances.

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