Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Cambodia off to Brunei
I've just heard that Cambodia will be sending an U-21 team to Brunei in late February to compete in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy that will take place between 25 Feb - 5 March. This tournament, an unofficial U-21 competition for ASEAN countries, has been on-hold for the last few years as Brunei Darussalam were suspended from all competitions by FIFA. That ban was lifted in the middle of this year just in time for Brunei to take part in the recent SEA Games. I've been harking on about better quality opposition for the national team and a well-structured build-up programme towards the qualifying rounds for the AFF Suzuki Cup next October, and this goes part of the way to fulfilling that requirement, though the HB Trophy is essentially an U-21 tournament although the rules have been changed this year to allow a handful of over-age players. Meanwhile, the Suzuki Cup is for the senior Cambodian team. What doesn't sit well is that the tournament looks like it will be smack-bang in the middle of the latter stages of the Hun Sen Cup and the preparation of teams for the Metfone C-League. I've yet to see the revised dates for the Hun Sen Cup, as they keep changing them, and no start date has yet been fixed for the C-League campaign to get underway. For the national coach, South Korean Lee Tae-Hoon, it will be an opportunity to wipe some of the egg off his face after the SEA Games debacle when his charges went down in all four matches and exited the SEA Games with a whimper. The timing isn't great though, as players will be called up for training for the U-21s when they should be getting good pre-season fitness and tactical sessions under their belt with their individual teams ahead of their involvement in the Hun Sen Cup, and later the league campaign. The tournament in Brunei just about ticks the box in terms of the start of serious Suzuki Cup preparation, but much more is needed, particularly tough, high-profile friendly matches at senior team level, which doesn't include Korean university teams or 2nd-rate Vietnam club sides. Brunei have just returned from the international wilderness after a two-year plus ban was lifted so they could compete in the recent SEA Games, where they did pretty well, beating Philippines, drawing with Laos and losing against Timor Leste, Myanmar and Vietnam. Cambodia's U-23s lost all four of their SEA Games matches. Brunei's only professional club DPMM FC are rejoining the Singapore League after their football federation's FIFA reprieve and the 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy will be the 4th time that Brunei has hosted the tournament. Indonesia won it in 2002 and then Thailand claimed the prize in 2005 and 2007 before the competition was suspended. In that 2007 competition, Cambodia's results were as follows: Brunei D2-2, Myanmar L0-7, Philippines W6-0, Thailand L1-10. For the record, in the FIFA world rankings, Cambodia lie at 170 whilst Brunei wallow at 202, as you'd expect for a team who haven't played for a few years.