Cambodia and Malaysia will kick off their 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup campaign on Thursday as the sides clash in Group A at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium in what will be the first ever match the country has hosted in the competition.

The hosts have undergone dramatic changes in their coaching set-up in recent months, with Japan international Keisuke Honda and Argentine Felix Dalmas taking charge of the Angkor Warriors.

Malaysia were the opponents when the pair were in the Cambodian dugout for the first time when, despite taking a first-half lead, the Harimau Malaya ran out 3-1 winners after coming back strongly after the interval.

“We are very happy to be here. We've worked very hard in our preparations for this game, and we are looking forward to opening the tournament in our home ground,” said Dalmas.

“We learned a lot from our recent meeting with Malaysia, it was a great game and we will learn from the mistakes we made in that game.

“Keisuke Honda won't be here for the match. Hopefully, he will be joining us for a couple of games later in the tournament. Despite the fact he is not physically here, he is still communicating with us and is still aware of everything that's going on.

“It would, of course, be great to have him here, but I don't think his physical absence will affect us much.”

While Cambodia are looking to progress from the group stage for the first time, Malaysia have a strong AFF Suzuki Cup record and won the competition back in 2010.

Since then they reached the semi-finals in 2012 and finished as runners-up in 2014, but failed to make it into the knockout rounds two years ago.

Just like in 2016, their group stage opponents are the Cambodians, Vietnam and Myanmar, while Laos are the fifth side in a group that is likely to see an intriguing battle for the two semi-final qualification spots.

“I am very happy to be here in my first time as head coach of the Malaysia team. My players are in a good shape for tomorrow's game and we're looking for a good match, said head coach Tan Cheng Hoe.

“The match we played against them previously was just a friendly, and this time it will be a competitive game. We will have different players in our line-up, but it will certainly not be an easy game.

“I expect the Cambodia team to have extra motivation to do well from their home support, but, of course, we will want to have a good start to the tournament and will be looking for a positive result.”

 Photos: Getty Images, Football Association of Malaysia