Cambodia coach Felix Dalmas and manager Keisuke Honda have been criticized by Cambodia legend Phat Pen over their player selection during Cambodia’s AFF Suzuki Cup campaign.
Cambodia crashed out of the tournament after three defeats and one win, with Vietnam and Malaysia heading into the semi-final as the group winners and runners-up, respectively.
Cambodia, who finished fourth in Group A of five teams, narrowly lost 0-1 to Malaysia in their opening group-stage match before they were thrashed 4-1 by Myanmar.
However, they bounced backed from two successive defeats in a row to thrash Laos 3-1 to earn their first AFF Suzuki Cup group-stage victory in sixteen years before going down 3-0 to Vietnam in their conclusion match.
Cambodia coach Felix Dalmas and manager Keisuke Honda have told the reporters several times that it is just the beginning and that everything is still in the process, meaning that Cambodia’s supporters need to be patient.
Felix Dalmas and Keisuke Honda don’t likely have a regular line-up for Cambodia as they keep changing the players from match to match, and Cambodia’s fans are not impressed with that.
Cambodia trio Vathanaka Chan, Monyudom Prak, and Sokpheng Keo, who were regular starters under the previous coaches such as Lee Taehoon, Leonardo Vitorino, and Sovannara Prak, didn’t receive much playing time.
Monyudom Prak made only one start against Laos from Cambodia’s four Group A matches, with the Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng skipper scoring from the penalty spot in Cambodia’s 3-1 success over Laos.
Visakha forward Sokpheng Keo made two starts against Malaysia and Laos, but he was replaced in the second half against Malaysia, while he came on in the second half against Myanmar and Vietnam.
Cambodia hotshot Vathanaka Chan, who scored two goals against Myanmar and Laos, made three starts against Malaysia, Myanmar, and Laos.
The left-footed forward was surprisingly replaced after half-time in Myanmar despite his impressive first-half performance and opening goal before Myanmar came from one goal down to demolish Cambodia 4-1.
Many supporters were shocked by Cambodia’s line-up against Vietnam in their last Group A match as the Cambodia trio remained on the bench, with Cambodia coach Felix Dalmas showing his intention to offer several youngsters a chance to experience the AFF Suzuki Cup match.
Felix Dalmas’s selection of players was not impressed as he was criticized over his decision to leave several experienced and important players on the bench as Vathanaka Chan came off the bench to replace Sokumpheak Kouch in the last six minutes of the match.
However, the Argentinian coach explained his reason to play several youngsters against the Group A favourites that he wanted to give them a chance to play in the biggest football tournament in the Southeast Asia.
Felix Dalmas told the Vietnamese journalists and was then quoted by Camsports as saying: “We want to give a chance to our youngsters, so we decided to play Vathanaka [Chan] in the last minutes of the game.”
Vathanaka Chan is by far the most talented and favourite player for the supporters, so leaving him on the bench for too long is not what they really want to see.
Meanwhile, Cambodia legend Phat Pen has also shared the same concerns as most of Cambodia’s supporters as he has criticized Felix Dalmas for his player selection through his Facebook post.
“I’m disappointed that the Cambodia coach [Felix Dalmas] has a different opinion [player selection] from the other coaches. He played quality player [Vathanaka Chan] in the last ten minutes of the game [against Vietnam] while we were losing [3-0 down].
“We played well in Myanmar, but you replaced the player [Vathanaka Chan after half-time], and you changed once again in Vietnam. You didn’t play our top players.
“I tell you – if you want to give a chance to the young players to get experience, you shouldn’t do it in the official matches. It’s okay to give them a chance to get experience in the friendly matches.
“You can’t test the players in the official matches [AFF Suzuki Cup]. We all want to win the games and see the progression of the team.”
Photo of Keisuke Honda and Felix Dalmas courtesy of Football Federation of Cambodia