Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Basking in success

Cambodia line up for the national anthem before the kick-off
World Cup matches don't get much better than this. The Cambodian national team did exactly what their fans wanted them to do, they beat Laos 4-2 and they beat them with room to spare, though the tie is definitely not over and Cambodia have a tough task ahead of them to achieve qualification to the next round to face China. They may have a two-goal cushion but Laos won't role over as easily as they did in today's 2nd half in front of a baying home crowd in Vientiane on Sunday. Anyway, that's in the future, for the moment let's bask in the present with a look at this afternoon's game. Though I didn't agree with South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon's team selection policy, the side he put out today did a great job in recovering from an early set-back and going onto win with a 2nd half performance that had everyone on their feet in the packed stands at the Olympic Stadium. And if it hadn't rained, there would've been a lot more watching as well. I reckon the crowd was about 15,000 strong and they certainly got their money's worth. On a wet surface, Laos drew first blood on 10 minutes when Ouk Mic in the Cambodian goal was simply beaten by the pace of a stunning free-kick from 18 year old Manolom Phomsouvanh, who fired his 25-yard drive just over Mic's head and under the cross-bar. It was a tough pill to swallow for the usually reliable Mic, the Cambodian skipper. Three minutes later, Kouch Sokumpheak burst past a bevy of defenders into the box, only to see Khuon Laboravy snatch at the chance and fire wildly over. On the half-hour mark, it was Sokumpheak again causing problems for the visiting defence when he rounded Lao keeper Chintana Souksavath but found the angle too acute to lob into the net, his attempt sailing across the face of goal, only to see teammate Chin Chhoeurn do exactly the same from the other side. Four minutes later, Lee Tae-Hoon made a tactical switch, replacing Tum Saray with Sam El Nasa and the move would later pay rich dividends. On 38 minutes, that man Sokumpheak was in the thick of it again, latching onto Laboravy's pass but finding no way past Souksavath at the near post. The half-time whistle came with Cambodia continuing to apply pressure without reward, with Laos looking composed on the ball and passing their way around the Cambodian midfield.

Cambodia came out after the break with purpose and it took just seven minutes for the home side to send their fans into a frenzy with the equaliser. Sam El Nasa floated a pass to Laboravy on the left-hand side of the area and he tussled with two Laos defenders, came out on top and whacked his shot past Souksavath from eight yards out. Cambodia continued to press, Chhoeurn had a shot blocked by his own teammate El Nasa before the substitute sent the massive crowd into raptures on 58 minutes. Laboravy was inch perfect in his delivery through the middle and El Nasa took the ball in his stride and fired past Souksavath from the edge of the penalty box with calmness and precision. Cambodia were now in front but their lead lasted just two minutes. On the hour, Tieng Tiny gave away a free kick 22 yards out and the pocket-rocket Manolom Phomsouvanh stepped up to deliver his trademark dead-ball strike with such power that Ouk Mic had no chance as the ball arrowed into the far corner. Two exquisite free-kicks by the teenage Lao winger. Rather than feel sorry for themselves, Cambodia upped their game again and Sokumpheak had another near post shot blocked by the Lao stopper Souksavath, before he made no mistake thirty seconds later. With 68 minutes on the clock, Sokumpheak snuck behind the Laos defence, moving onto a Laboravy pass, composed himself and flicked his right-foot shot wide of the keeper and into the net for 3-2. The crowd were back on their feet and dancing for joy.

Both teams made changes, but Cambodia had enough in the tank to keep possession with Sokumpheak in his element, delivering neat and incisive passes whenever Cambodia eased out of their own half. With three minutes left, the Phnom Penh Crown striker looked to have sealed it when he headed in Phuong Soksana's cross but a linesman's flag was fluttering in the breeze and the crowd sat back down again. But only for a minute as Sokumpheak weaved his way to the bye-line, sent across an inch-perfect center which Sam El Nasa despatched from five yards out to put the icing on the cake and leave the Cambodian fans almost delirious with pleasure. It was a wonderful comeback for the home team that should fill them with confidence ahead of the away leg in Vientiane at the weekend. Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon refused to pull out any individuals for praise at the after-match press conference, preferring instead to talk about the team as a whole, though it wouldn't take a genius to identify that Kouch Sokumpheak was head and shoulders above anyone else on the Olympic Stadium pitch this afternoon. To be honest I couldn't understand a word of what the South Korean coach said in his comments to the press and I was straining my ears to catch every word. Laos' Austrian coach Hans Peter Schaller blamed his team's defeat on individual mistakes, too many young players, missing six key players and; "we made it too easy for Cambodia in the 2nd half, after we controlled the first half. If we cannot beat Cambodia at home, we don't deserve anything." Roll on Sunday and more of the same please Cambodia.
Cambodia line-up: Mic, Rady, Pancharong (Raksmey 86), Tiny, Rithy, Sothearith, Sopanha, Chhoeurn (Soksana 82), Saray (El Nasa 34), Laboravy, Sokumpheak. Subs not used: Vichet, Vichheka, Piseth, Dina, PM Udom, Narong, Souhana, Chan Vanno, Veasna.
The starting XI for Cambodia: Back Row LtoR: Rady, Sopanha, Tiny, Rithy, Laboravy, Mic. Front Row; Sothearith, Chhoeurn, Pancharong, Saray, Sokumpheak
Two of Cambodia's heroes, Crown teammates, Kouch Sokumpheak (10) and Tieng Tiny (4)
The Cambodian bench during the national anthems
The Laos starting XI will be looking for blood on Sunday
Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon expresses himself in the after-match press conference - though I didn't understand a word of it!


Nakhon Ratchasima FC said...

Great result! Well done Cambodia.

Anonymous said...

Good Job Cambodia