Phnom Penh: Regardless of the result on Tuesday night, Keisuke Honda had surely already secured a place in Cambodian footballing history, but in masterminding the historic 3-1 win over Laos, the Japanese forward has ensured the Angkor Warriors can now look to the future with real hope.

Prior to Tuesday’s Group A victory, you have to go back to 2002 to find Cambodia’s last AFF Suzuki Cup win but goals from Chan Vathanaka, Prak Mony Udom and Keo Sokpheng changed that and, despite having their elimination confirmed, they travel to Vietnam full of optimism ahead of their final game of the campaign.

Honda, meanwhile, will return to Australia to fulfil his playing duties with Melbourne Victory, but having joined the team ahead of the away defeat in Myanmar, the former A.C. Milan player can view the trip to Southeast Asia as a huge success as the 16-year wait for victory ended amid joyous scenes at Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium.

“I’m proud of the players but I don’t want to be happy or sad just based on the result, I want to keep it related to the team’s improvement, because I think we played well in the last couple of games but didn’t win,” said Honda.

“I told them after the game that it’s a process, so let’s proceed to the next step, and now there is an important game with Vietnam. They have skill and ability, so we need to prepare well.”

Appointed in August, fanfare greeted Honda’s arrival prior to a 3-1 friendly defeat to Malaysia in Phnom Penh a month later. Alongside Argentine Felix Dalmas, the 32-year-old’s task is to elevate Cambodia from also-rans to contenders.

In three of the five games since the pair took over, the Angkor Warriors had taken first-half leads, only to fade after the interval and lose on each occasion – the 4-1 defeat in Myanmar last Monday being the latest.

The side’s sixth outing under the duo followed a similar pattern in the first half but this time there was no surrender. At 2-0 down, Laos pulled one back with 15 minutes to play, but Cambodia surged forward again, restored their two-goal lead and wrapped up only their third win ever in the regional competition.

“We need time, this is just the beginning,” Honda added. “I have seen young talent here but there is not the footballing culture, like in Europe, so now I’m trying to raise their standard and change their mindset.

“These are basic things. They grew up in a different environment, have played with different tactics and at a different standard – I want to raise that.

“I like to give my passion to the Cambodian players. When I signed the contract, I promised to get involved to the maximum, give everything and use my experience to help Cambodian soccer grow in the future.”

An eventful year for Honda has seen the forward move from Mexico to Australia, score in his third successive FIFA World Cup as Japan reached the last 16 and assume his first managerial role while still in his early thirties.

For now, it’s job done in Phnom Penh as the Osaka-native gets set to embark on another long trip back to Australia ahead of his club side's encounter with Sydney FC at the weekend.

Cambodia, meanwhile, will fly to Hanoi on the back of this famous victory, looking to take further steps forward in their exciting new journey. 

“It’s been a new experience for me and I like it, I’m excited to move every three days. There was a lot of pressure on me but I like the pressure,” admitted Honda.

“It’s tough, especially in this period. I have spent a lot of time managing the team, so you will see if I play good or bad at the weekend.”