Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Looking ahead to the weekend

The quarter-finals of the Hun Sen Cup are fast approaching. With two games on Saturday and another two on Sunday, we'll soon know the semi-finalists with Phnom Penh Crown, Preah Khan, Naga and Kirivong my favourites to progress. In the 1st quarter-final, Preah Khan take on Prek Pra Keila at the Olympic Stadium at 2pm on Saturday, with Crown facing Build Bright United at 4.30pm. The next day, Naga and the Police Commissary do battle at 2pm, followed by Kirivong Sok Sen Chey's clash with the Army. The semi's will be held on 5 March and the final on Saturday 12 March, just in time for the national team to get together ahead of their three AFC Challenge Cup group games in the Maldives, that begin on 20 March.
If last season's form is anything to go by, then the tie of the quarter-finals is Crown against BBU. Both teams have made improvements to their squad in the off season with Kouch Sokumpheak spearheading the Crown attack, a winner of the Hun Sen Cup whilst with Khemara as well as collecting two Golden Boot awards as the competition's top scorer. He certainly has the pedigree to handle the big occasion, as do his experienced teammates. With Khim Borey having moved onto play in the Thai Premier League without kicking a ball in anger for Crown, Sokumpheak's likely partner is his national team colleague Sok Pheng. One face missing from the squad through injury will be the experienced campaigner Chea Virath, though its likely that Army recruit Suong Virak will get the all-clear to make his first appearance in a Crown jersey.
Crown coach Bojan Hodak is quietly confident. "We'll approach this like every other match, we take this competition very seriously and we will go out to win. BBU are one of the best teams in the cup, they finished 2nd in the league last season, so they must have good players but I'm confident that if we play up to our level, that we can win." Crown recently met BBU in a pre-season friendly with Hodak brushing aside the result; "We beat them 3-1 in a friendly but that doesn't count. I know they have good players in Bunheang, Sothearath, Puthsethy and Sinoun. However, I have confidence in my players and if we perform to our standard, we can beat anyone. We can't take anything for granted though as the cup is a tough competition because you don't have a right to an off-day or to be unlucky, or else you can get knocked out."
BBU, who led the Metfone C-League for large chunks of last season before falling to Preah Khan in the play-off semi-final, eventually claimed 3rd spot with a penalty-kick victory over Naga Corp. In the Summer they added striker Heng Sokly to their ranks, once the striker left Crown at the end of last season after netting six times. Their youthful exuberance served them well last season and they will be looking to strike an early blow against the cup favourites on Saturday.

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