Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The task ahead

Crown coach David Booth makes his point to his youthful squad
To put the enormity of the task facing Phnom Penh Crown in qualifying for this year's final of the AFC President's Cup into true context, we should take a moment to consider the respective team line-ups. Crown reached the final last year, narrowly losing 3-2 to Taiwan Power in a contentious championship decider, with a very experienced team by Cambodian standards. Of the team that faced Taiwan a year ago, only two players are certain to start in tomorrow night's opening Group A game against Dordoi, namely captain Tieng Tiny and Khim Borey. Even Chan Chaya who played against Taiwan, is a serious doubt with a toe injury. The rest of tomorrow's Crown line-up will be players who didn't make the starting eleven last time around or who have arrived this season. Perhaps half a dozen players who appeared for Crown in their opening match of the qualifying competition in May (an 8-0 win over Yeedzin), will start tomorrow night's match. Coach David Booth has yet to announce his starting team for the game.
Compare that to the Dordoi team, who won the qualifying group held in Crown's own backyard in Phnom Penh in May of this year and their only change is the absence of the competition's top scorer with eight goals (including a 5-goal haul against Yeedzin), Mirlan Murzaev, who has left to strut his stuff in Israel. Dordoi didn't qualify for last year's AFC President's Cup competition. Their opening game against the host club FC Istiklol didn't pan out as they would've wanted yesterday, they lost 2-0, so tomorrow, Crown can expect an all-out aerial bombardment in order to salvage some Kyrgyz pride. Last season Istiklol didn't get out of the final group stage of the President's Cup but their team is a year older and ten of the players who beat Dordoi yesterday, were in their starting line-up in last year's competition. Another year older, wiser and more cohesive, as we saw in in their 2-0 success. The importance of experienced heads and a settled line-up in international competitions like these can never be underestimated and that's where Crown will find it difficult to match their Group A opponents. However, Crown's youthful dynamism and more cultured playing style could give them the springboard to surprise their Central Asian opponents.

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