Keisuke Honda expects real test from Malaysia in Cambodia bow

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Keisuke Honda believes his first game in charge of Cambodia will be quite a test when his side take on Malaysia in a friendly next Monday.

Honda, who was handed the Cambodia reins last month, met his new charges for the first time on Tuesday and will have almost an entire week to prepare them for the clash with Harimau Malaya, which signals the start of their preparations for the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Interestingly enough, both sides will meet in their Suzuki Cup Group A opener on November 8 and, while Monday’s friendly is a mere dress rehearsal, Honda is still expecting a tough time.

“It will be a difficult game on Monday as Malaysia is a very good country, they are very strong,” said the iconic Japanese attacker, according to the Asian Football Confederation’s official website.

“I want to contribute all my experience to the Cambodian national team.

“My mission is to change Cambodian football right now… but of course that’s not easy.”

Since the tournament’s inception in 1996 – then known as the Tiger Cup – Cambodia have made six appearances in Southeast Asia’s premier international tournament but have never made it out of the group stage.

They face another tricky route once again this year if they are to reach the last four as they will need to finish in the top two of a group also consisting of Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Laos.

Nonetheless, there is an increasing sentiment that Cambodian football has made strides forward in recent times, highlighted by the fact that four of their players were signed by Malaysia Super League clubs at the start of this year – although only Terengganu midfielder Thierry Chantha Bin has lasted the entire campaign.

Despite his managerial commitments, Honda is yet to retire from playing and will soon be joining up with new club Melbourne Victory to prepare for the start of the 2018-19 A-League season.

Photo credit: Football Federation of Cambodia