The parched Central Asian nation Turkmenistan will face Cambodia on Thursday in the first of two qualifying matches for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, marking the start of Cambodia’s third qualifying campaign since 1979.
Cambodia manager Scott O’Donell said Tuesday that his side had some injury worries ahead of the 3 pm match at Olympic Stadium but that the current roster is ready.
“I’m confident if we play to our capabilities that we can get a result,” he said. “They’re technically a good team. Obviously they’re going to be bigger and stronger than us so we’ve got to be smarter.”
A major concern is turnout, as the game had been set for the middle of the Pchum Ben holiday when Phnom Penh is likely to be nearly vacant, he said.
According to O’Donell, team captain Pok Chanthan was likely to start despite tearing a knee ligament two weeks ago; while central defender Chan Dara would likely be benched due to a knee injury of his own.
At four places above Cambodia in the world rankings, 174th-ranked Turkmenistan have never qualified for a World Cup finals since the country’s federation formed in 1992 following the breakup of the Soviet Union.
In their last three matches, Turkmenistan have scored a single goal and conceded seven in defeats to Lithuania, Qatar and Bahrain.
However Turkmenistan were surprise entrants in the 2004 Asian Cup where they managed a point for a 2-2 draw with Saudi Arabia.
O’Donell said Turkmen midfielder Nazar Bayramov and defender Gochguly Gochguliyev appeared likely to present the greatest challenges to Cambodia.
However the Turkmen side may be wrong-footed by the heat and humidity of late rainy-season Cambodia, he added. Conditions for Thursday’s match are predicted to be light wind, with a high of 90 degrees and possible thunderstorms.
Football Federation of Cambodia Secretary-General Yean Chheang said Tuesday that the Asian Football Confederation’s August draw had originally scheduled the match to take place Tuesday but that it was rescheduled due to the Turkmens’ late arrival, pushing the confrontation further into the holiday week.
O’Donell said the team was hoping to see friendly faces in the stands.
“We want to make use of the home ground advantage,” he said. “We need all the support we can get.”