Monday, August 23, 2010

It all starts now

The next bout of football to get excited about for Cambodian football fans will be the national team's involvement in the qualifying rounds of the AFF Suzuki Cup, which have today been confirmed as taking place in Vientiane, Laos between 22-30 October. Cambodia will join the host country, Philippines and Timor Leste in battling out for the two places up for grabs in the competition finals which will be shared between Vietnam and Indonesia from 1-29 December, with the group games scheduled from 1-8 December. The draw for the qualifying round and competition proper will take place on 15 September, and the teams who've already booked their finals place are Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar. The winners will collect $100,000 and all games will be screened on ESPN Star Sports tv channel. Vietnam are the current Suzuki Cup holders, beating Thailand 3-2 over two legs in December 2008. Cambodia qualified for the finals in 2008 though suffered three reversals in their group matches, against Singapore (5-0), Indonesia (4-0) and Myanmar (3-2).

Now that the Cambodian League season has come to a close, the focus will turn to the Cambodia national team and the new South Korean coach, Lee Tae-Hoon, who arrived in Phnom Penh on Friday, just in time to watch the season's finale, where Phnom Penh Crown defeated Preah Khan Reach 4-3. Lee Tae-Hoon will meet his training squad of players tomorrow at the Olympic Stadium for the first time. The expanded squad will head off to Vietnam soon to prepare for their AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying games in Laos between 22-30 October. That gives him just over a month and a half to whip the team into shape, though in my opinion, the national team virtually picks itself already. The new coach will have his own ideas about formations and styles of play but having watched the majority of this season's C-League matches, the following team line-up is my take on the best eleven that the national team coach can field (with club and age in brackets):
Samreth Seiha (Army, 20)
Lay Raksmey (Preah Khan, 21)
Sun Sovanrithy (Naga, 23)
Tieng Tiny
(PPCrown, 24)
Sok Rithy
(Preah Khan, 19)
Chhun Sothearath (BBU, 20)
Sun Sopanha
(PPCrown, 23)
Keo Sokngorn
(PPCrown, 18)
Khuon Laboravy
(Preah Khan, 21)
Kuoch Sokumpheak (Khemara, 23)
Khim Borey (Army, 20).

Samreth Seiha and Sou Yaty are easily the two best goalkeepers in the C-League and they both play for the Army, though Seiha gets my nod by a whisker. In Raksmey and Sovanrithy, the team have two full-backs who love to gallop forward, and Sovanrithy is equally effective in midfield. Tieng Tiny (pictured) is head and shoulders the best defender in the C-League and Sok Rithy has recovered from injury but needs to cut out playing the ball out of defence and just hoof it away. Sothearath and Sopanha have both had great seasons and are similar in style, so I'd have them patrolling the middle of the park and keeping it tight. That would enable Laboravy to push forward down the left with Keo Sokngorn given a free role to wander wherever he likes. In attack both Sokumpheak and Borey know where the goal is, they have tremendous experience despite their tender ages and they also work their butts off. No surprises in my selection as these eleven players are the best the C-League has to offer. There are one or two others who could argue their way into the line-up but in my opinion, this is the best starting team that Cambodia can put out.

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