Saturday, March 30, 2013

Not switched on

PPCFC v PKR. Back Row LtoR: Seiha, Boris, Thierry, Oladiji, Obadin, Narin. Front: Rady, Pheng, Suhana, Sokumpheak, Borey - click to enlarge.
"We were not good enough. In all areas. Physically, our players returning from national team were low on confidence, they didn't fit into the team today and tactically we didn't play as well as we wanted. We were not better, we made too many simple mistakes, they were quicker and we were always caught by surprise. We just weren't switched on." Those were the immediate after-match comments from a plainly disappointed Phnom Penh Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber after he watched his side go down to their first Metfone C-League defeat of the season against their age old rivals Preah Khan Reach. The only goal of the game was scored by Khuon Laboravy in the 73rd minute but that too came in for some flack from the Swiss coach. "The goal should not have been allowed. Two players were down, each holding their head, clearly the FIFA rules state the referee should stop the game, he didn't, they scored. We still should've stopped the goal but it was a reflection of how we played the game today," he bemoaned. However, his Crown team were definitely not at their best in the two o'clock kick-off, with four players returning from the national team's debacle in the Philippines and looking almost like strangers alongside their teammates. PKR's Laboravy sent a header harmlessly wide with the game's first real effort, before Crown's Sos Suhana burst into the box on fifteen minutes, only for his foray to be blocked and the ball cleared. Kouch Sokumpheak sent a skidding shot wide after keeper Sar Sophea had punched poorly from Nelson Oladiji's cross, and the goalkeeper then pushed a free-kick from Bin Thierry out for a corner at the foot of the upright. On 24 minutes, Crown keeper Samrith Seiha's stood strong with a one-handed fist as Tum Saray drove in a thunderous strike from Laboravy's break and pass, and from the inswinging corner by Nen Sothearoth, Leng Narin was well-placed to head away at the far post. The game swung to the other end as Oladiji broke and crossed long only for Khim Borey to send his volley wide on the stretch. Just after the half-hour a good build-up gave Pheak Rady a sight of goal but his shot was deflected off target. With little to choose between the teams, Chea Samnang sent a low header wide, Laboravy was closed down as he shot and Samnang rode a challenge, only to scuff his drive wide of the mark.

Crown pressed from the start and as a corner fell to Kok Boris, his shot was deflected into the path of Thierry and as he got his shot away, an outstretched leg took it away from danger. Borey used his hand to divert Oladiji's cross into the net and he was reprimanded with a yellow card. Seiha was again in the thick of the action, as Saray's cross found Laboravy on his own but the goalkeeper made himself big enough to thwart the striker. Two minutes before the hour, the national team custodian showed exactly why he's one of the best in the league. Prak Mony Udom's wickedly bouncing free-kick was pushed out by Seiha, who then blocked a header from Laboravy and dived bravely at the feet of Sok Chanrasmey for an outstanding triple save. Sokumpheak then had Crown's best chance to date when he drilled a shot on target only for Sophea to push the shot wide at full stretch. Seiha was again called on to keep out another Udom free-kick but with 17 minutes to go, his high challenge outside his penalty box led to the game's only goal. As he cleared, leaving Phany Ratha and Hong Pheng on the floor holding their heads, referee Tuy Vichheka allowed play to continue, PKR reacted quicker and Samoeun Pidor's cross-shot was parried by Seiha only to Laboravy who nodded in from five yards out. With five minute remaining, Narin's deep cross found Odion Obadin free at the far post but his header flashed wide of the goal-frame, though Sokumpheak looked set to equalise in the third minute of injury time. Seiha's long range free-kick fell at his feet, twelve yards out and central, only for the striker to miscue and fail to hit the target. A minute later, Seiha rugby-tackled Laboravy forty yards from goal, and next to the touchline, to earn a yellow card and then reacted with his feet to deny Saray, after PKR caught Crown napping with a quick free-kick. At the final whistle, PKR leap-frogged their opponents into second-place and gave Crown boss Schweingruber food for thought ahead of Wednesday's clash with table toppers Boeung Ket.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Rady, Pheng, Narin, Obadin, Boris (Sothy 77), Thierry, Suhana, Sokumpheak, Oladiji, Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Dara, Lika, Dary, Phearun, Kano, Srin, Pisa, Morslim. Bookings: Borey, Seiha. MOTM: Seiha.
Duh...on 67 minutes Crown attempted to bring Leng Makara on as a substitute only for the match officials to point out that he wasn't included on the team-sheet and the disappointed player sat back down again.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Laos through by rulebook

Not that it matters to Cambodia, but the AFC have delved deep into the rule book and have amended the list of qualifiers for the final stages of the AFC Challenge Cup next year, following Brunei's last-minute withdrawal from the competition. The seven qualifiers who will joins hosts Maldives in the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup have been confirmed, with Laos and Turkmenistan receiving a ticket to next year’s finals as the two best runners-up. Brunei's pull-out in Group E meant that the results of the matches in the four other groups between the runner-up and the bottom-placed team were declared null and void based on Article 16.1 and Appendix 2 of the tournament regulations.
The affected matches were as follows:
Group A: India 2-1 Chinese Taipei
Group B: Macau 0-3 Tajikistan
Group C: Laos 1-1 Mongolia
Group D: Bangladesh 4-0 Northern Mariana Islands
So with these results no longer being factored into the outcome, Laos emerged as the best of the second-placed team with four points. Turkmenistan, AFC Challenge Cup runners-up in 2012 and 2010, took the second ticket to the Maldives, with their superior goal difference separating them from 2008 champions India, Bangladesh (who originally celebrated getting through only to have that rug pulled firmly out from beneath them) and inaugural winners Tajikistan, who all finished with three points.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cambodia hammered

Cambodia's keeper Samrith Seiha challenging Philippines' Angel Guirado. Pic: Josh Albelda/Rappler
As I forecast before Cambodia's national team left for their AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Manila, they didn't stand a chance. Once Brunei withdrew two days before the opening games, it was clear that Cambodia were there to take a beating from two of the better-placed teams in FIFA's world rankings, who were determined to make the Challenge Cup finals that will take place in the Maldives next year. Some forty ranking places above Cambodia speaks for itself as to the quality that Turkmenistan and Philippines can produce in the international arena, and the rankings on this occasion, held water. Turkmenistan went about their task from the outset, scoring as early as the 7th minute in Friday's opener against Prak Sovannara's team. They led 4-nil by the break, which included an own goal by Om Thavrak, but found it a little tougher in the second period until the last fifteen minutes, when they rattled in three more goals. In front of a crowd of just 200, Sovannara went with his young midfield trio of Hoy Phallin, Suon Veasna and Prak Mony Udom but left his brightest spark, Chan Vathanaka on the bench until just before half-time. Defensively, Thavrak replaced Tieng Tiny before the half-hour mark but the move failed to stem the tide. Cambodia were hammered and left to lick their wounds until they faced the hosts Philippines two days later. Cambodia's line-up: Yaty, Raksmey, Pancharong, Tiny (Thavrak 27), Piseth, Phallin, Veasna, Suhana (Vathanaka 42), PM Udom, Vathanak, Borey (Narith 55).

For the Philippines encounter on Sunday, coach Sovannara made seven changes, suggesting he had lost faith in his original line-up and was clutching at straws, which as it turned out, was about as good as it got. There was no stopping Philippines in front of a 6,500 crowd once Phil Younghusband netted an eight-minute hat-trick midway through the first half. A goal either side of the interval killed off Cambodia completely and after the Azkals scored a sixth, the match was held up for an hour by a torrential downpour. Two late goals including Younghusband's fourth gave the home team an 8-0 win. Two crushing defeats for Sovannara's team, who ended the qualifiers on three points after Brunei's withdrawal gave them a 3-0 win and three points by default. Cambodia's line-up: Seiha, Raksmey (Phallin 35), Pancharong, Rithy, Piseth, Narith (Borey 81), Khemrin, PM Udom (Thavrak 46), Chanrasmey, Chhoeun, Sokumpheak.

Younghusband was on target again with the game's only goal when Philippines met Turkmenistan in the final game on Tuesday, which sent the home side through as group E winners, whilst Turkmenistan qualified as one of the two best second-placed teams from the five groups. The other best-placed ticket went to Bangladesh who edged out India courtesy of a plus five goal difference. Bangladesh finished runners-up in Group D behind Palestine while Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan topped groups A, B and C respectively.

For Cambodia's fans the two defeats, by such heavy margins, will be hard to swallow. They saw their team hold Philippines to a goal-less draw at the Olympic Stadium last year, so will be stumped that the two teams could've grown so far apart in the intervening period. But in cup football, Philippines have shown they can step up to the plate and they've proved that again. As for Turkmenistan, they are one of the strongest teams at this level of competition and were twice beaten finalists, so they have the pedigree as well. I wasn't surprised that both games ended in defeat but the margins did raise one eyebrow, especially as Sovannara had placed his faith on defensive formations in the matches leading up to the competition. In that respect, it really is back to the drawing board for the national team.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Academy on tour

The Academy team v Pursat. Back LtoR: Sodavid, Sovann, Soksela, Senteang, Chanpolin, Titchhy. Front: Phearath, Chansopheak, Muslim, T Chhaya, Nuron.

The Phnom Penh Crown tour of the northwest also allowed the Academy squad to play three matches as well as spend time with the first team over the three days of the tour, which cemented an already close relationship. It also gave head coach Sam Schweingruber the opportunity to give game-time to four of the Academy squad as substitutes in the four matches played by the senior team. As for the Academy games, their first came on Friday afternoon, when they met the Pursat youth team U-17s, winning 3-0. Chhuot Senteang opened the scoring after 17 minutes, holding off two challenges to score. Two minutes later, Yeu Muslim's cross set up an easy tap-in for In Sodavid. The Academy's third goal came three minutes from the end of the game when Orn Chanpolin netted confidently from the penalty box after a handball offense. The 2nd game for the Academy came in Poipet against Blooming FC U-16s, which the Crown youngsters won 4-1. Mat Sakrovy netted from Chanpolin's pass on 4 minutes, with Chanpolin adding a quick-fire second just two minutes later. Theang Chhaya fired a shot against the upright but Crown had to wait until the 15th minute of the 2nd half to add to their tally. Vat Samnang chased and cut back the ball from the bye-line to give Ken Chansopheak a simple tap-in, and on 22 minutes Pov Ponvuthy's shot took a wicked deflection before ending up in the net. Kim Chhaya headed an own goal for Blooming's late consolation effort.

The final game for the Academy was perhaps the most eagerly-awaited as they faced the Mighty Girls, the best female team in Cambodia by a country mile. The girls ages ranged from 14 to 17 and most of them have represented their country in international matches. However, on the day they were simply no match for a rampant Academy team, determined to prove themselves. In the heat of mid-day the match was played for 25 minutes each way. It took just 4 minutes for In Sodavid's free-kick to find the back of the net with a deflection and the goals continued to rain in. Mat Nuron then scored a 9-minute hat-trick with three close range finishes. Chhuot Senteang chipped in with two quick-fire goals and Sath Rozak sent in a cheeky 25-yard chip to give the Academy a seven-goal half-time lead. There was no let up at the start of the 2nd half. Vat Samnang slotted home, Mat Sakrovy found the net with a 25-yard lob and Rozak netted his second with a simple tap-in. Pov Ponvuthy raced clear to score and Sakrovy fired in his second before two of four young trialists, Vuth Sophara and Sok Panha added their names to the scoresheet. The final score: 14-0. In addition to the Academy players, we also took Keo Soksela on tour, the 15 year old goalkeeper who is attached to the club but not a member of the Academy. He featured in all the Academy matches as well as three of the senior team games and will this week sign C-League forms for the club, as will Seut Baraing. Soksela, Baraing, In Sodavid and Chhuot Senteang also got game-time with the senior team whilst on tour.
The Academy team v Mighty Girls. Back LtoR: Chanpolin, Sovann, S Samnang, Sodavid, Senteang, Titchhy. Front: Muslim, Chansopheak, Rozak, Nuron, Phearath

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Football hot-bed

PPCFC starting XI. Back LtoR: Pheng, Seyha, Obadin, Oladiji, Thierry, Narin. Front: Boris, Rady, Morslim, Ary, Sothy.

Battambang is a footballing hot-bed with a fantastic league network of youth football, boys and girls, unrivaled across the country. That was the location of Phnom Penh Crown's final series of matches on their northwest tour of the country on Sunday. In the mid-day sun, the Crown senior team took on Thaneakea Srov, the local champions and Division A1 play-off potentials later in the year. It promised to be Crown's toughest challenge on tour and after a minute, the home team sent a shot across the Yok Ary's goal. The third minute however, saw Crown take the lead and they never really looked back after that. Ary sent a long kick over the heads of the home defenders and they watched as Ly Morslim raced away, kept his cool and touched it past the onrushing keeper. Men Seyha and Bin Thierry took pot-shots before Nelson Oladiji maintained his goal in each of the tour matches with Crown's second. Thierry had his wits about him as he took a quick free-kick to Oladiji and he planted his shot under the goalkeeper and then finished it off for good measure in the ninth minute. Oladiji queried why another goal was ruled out for offside before Ary was called into action for the first of three good saves before the break. Thierry was keen to get on the scoresheet but his efforts went unrewarded. On 22 minutes, Morslim popped up to poke in Crown's third goal after Hong Pheng's shot was blocked by the keeper. As the first half closed, Ary was called upon to keep his goal intact with two smart saves. Immediately after the break, the visitors were on the offensive again. Oladiji touched a corner onto the cross-bar, Chhom Pisa had a shot tipped over and Leng Makara was inches away from a goal too. Just six minutes in and Pisa hammered the ball through a forest of legs to make it four-nil. Ouk Sothy wasted a great chance before Makara followed up to tap in a Pheng shot that was saved, to add a fifth nine minutes into the second period. Two minutes later, a Pheng pass intended for Makara was guided into his own net by the home goalkeeper as he miss-kicked. A string of substitutions followed, as Pisa clipped a shot onto the bar, Makara rounded the keeper as he raced onto Mak Phearun's ball over the top to score, on 57 minutes and six minutes later the same player notched his hat-trick. The nippy striker held off two challenges as he collected Ran Ratana's pass and found the far corner with an accurate finish. 8-0 to Crown and a job well done in the debilitating heat of mid-day. Before the senior match, the Academy beat the Mighty Girls 14-0. After lunch and an hour watching the SALT Academy youth finals for boys and girls, the Crown touring party headed back to Phnom Penh, well content with their three days in the northwest provinces. 
Line-up: Ary (Soksela), Rady (Dara), Seyha (Phearun), Narin (Lika), Obadin ( (Srin), Sothy (Ratana), Boris (Sodavid), Thierry (Pisa), Morslim (Makara), Pheng (Kano), Oladiji (Senteang). Booking: Kano. MOTM: Makara.
The PPCFC XI that started the 2nd half. Back LtoR: Pheng, Boris, Oladiji, Ary, Lika, Srin. Front: Sothy, Phearun, Pisa, Makara, Dara.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tiny pitch

The starting XI for Crown. Back LtoR: Pheng, Narin, Thierry, Oladiji, Obadin, Boris. Front: Da, Seyha, Makara, Ary, Lika
Phnom Penh Crown's tour of the northwest continued with a match against the local champions of Poipet, Black Eagle FC at the tiny Don Bosco school pitch earlier today. Forty minutes each way, Crown made all the early running with Leng Narin sending a couple of efforts goalwards and Nelson Oladiji heading wide before Men Seyha gave the touring team a 15th minute lead. Bin Thierry's pass put him wide on the left and as he reached the goal-line he sent a cheeky shot inside the near post, surprising the keeper. Three minutes later and Thierry's pass to Oladiji gave the Nigerian striker the space to strike a fierce shot that gave the goalkeeper no chance. The opposition gave themselves a lifeline on 36 minutes when a miss-placed pass from Chhom Pisa allowed them to pull a goal back with a quick breakaway. After the interval, the Black Eagles keeper was kept much the busier as he was called on to tip over a Leng Makara header just 28 seconds in, and then forced to come to his team's rescue as efforts from Oladiji, Pisa and Makara rained in. Hong Pheng sent a header just over the bar and Pisa's 20 yard screamer was pushed around the post before Crown grabbed their third goal of the afternoon. With 69 minutes on the clock, Mak Phearun's cross to the far post was powerfully headed in by the late arrival of Pheak Rady. Chhuot Senteang went very close on two occasions to opening his senior account but looked on as his efforts failed to find the target, whilst Thierry rounded three players but also watched in disbelief as the upright came to the opposition's rescue. 3-1 and Crown's third win on the road. The Academy team beat Blooming FC 4-1 in a game played before the main attraction.
Line-up: Ary (Soksela), Da (Rady ((Ratana)), Seyha (Srin), Obadin (Narin ((Dara)), Lika (Phearun ((Kano)), Boris (Thierry), Narin (Sothy ((Sodavid)), Pheng (Morslim), Thierry (Pisa), Makara, Oladiji (Senteang). MOTM: Bin Thierry.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Making friends

PPCFC v Ponley Town. Back LtoR: Obadin, Boris, Thierry, Oladiji, Narin, Pheng, Schweingruber (coach). Front: Rady, Makara, Ary, Pisa, Sothy

Phnom Penh Crown enjoyed a successful first day on their northwest tour, winning both matches and making many new friends. The touring party left their RSN Stadium HQ just after seven-thirty and headed straight to Kompong Chhnang where they faced Ponley Town FC on the sun-baked mud pitch in the center of the provincial capital. Coach Sam Schweingruber picked a strong team to start their tour friendly matches and because of the tight schedule, the game was played for thirty minutes each way. The only players missing from the tour party were the injured Mart Hasan and the four who were with Cambodia in the Philippines, namely Kouch Sokumpheak, Khim Borey, Samrith Seiha and Sos Suhana. Hong Pheng opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute when he took a Kok Boris pass in his stride, burst between two defenders and guided his low drive into the corner of the net. One-up and a good start to the tour. Nelson Oladiji sent a header wide and a half volley over the top as Crown pressed. Chhom Pisa's shot was tipped over the bar and then he rode two challenges only for the goalkeeper to smother at his feet. On 27 minutes Oladiji's cross found Bin Thierry in acres of space and his header, or was it his ear, put Crown two goals to the good. The half ended with Thourng Da skying a great opportunity after bursting into the box. Schweingruber rang the changes during the interval and throughout the game, giving first-team opportunities to Academy youngsters In Sodavid, Seut Baraing, teenage goalkeeper Keo Soksela and new recruit, 19-year-old Ran Ratana. The 2nd half was 58 seconds old when Vi Lika miss-controlled and gifted Ponley a goal. Fourteen minutes in and Nelson Oladiji thrust out a foot at a Ly Morslim shot and got the decisive touch to register Crown's third goal. Da and Pheng squandered good chances, though Tin Kano's howler at the far post was the easiest opportunity before Thierry smacked a shot against the cross-bar from eight yards out at the very end. 3-1 to Crown and a match played in very good spirits on a hard, bobbly pitch.
Line-Up: Ary (Soksela), Rady (Da ((Kano)), Pheng (Seyha), Narin (Srin ((Dara)), Obadin (Lika), Sothy (Baraing), Pisa (Thierry), Boris (Phearun ((Narin)), Makara (Sodavid), Thierry (Morslim ((Pheng)), Oladiji (Ratana). MOTM: Pisa.

After lunch in Kompong Chhnang, the tour party headed for Pursat where Ratanakea FC were ready to provide the next opposition to Crown's senior team. Before that game the Academy met the Pursat youth team and won 3-0. The senior match saw Crown run out 3-0 winners on a better surface, with the goals coming in the first-half, again of thirty minutes duration. Hong Pheng fluffed the first good chance before Nelson Oladiji headed Crown in front on 22 minutes with a powerful finish from Leng Makara's cross. Less than a minute later and Bin Thierry hit a screamer from 25 yards out, cashing in on a neat one-two with Oladiji to put Crown further ahead. They didn't have to wait long for number three. Two minutes later and Oladiji scored his second, getting an effective header in on goal to a deep Pheak Rady cross as the goalkeeper left his line. Chhom Pisa looked to make it four just before the break but was thwarted by the keeper, and Kok Boris sent the rebound wide of the mark. The only move worthy of note after the break was more good combination play between Oladiji and Thierry, only for the latter to be denied by more brave goalkeeping. Amongst the many personnel changes, given his first opportunity in the senior team for the last 13 minutes was Academy striker Chhuot Senteang. Another win, and the team headed for their overnight stop in Poipet, arriving after 10.30pm.
Line-Up: Ary, Rady (Seyha ((Baraing)), Phearun (Da ((Kano)), Srin (Dara), Obadin (Lika), Boris (Sothy), Thierry (Sodavid), Pheng (Morslim), Pisa (Narin), Makara (Senteang), Oladiji (Ratana). MOTM: Oladiji.

PPCFC v Ratanakea FC in Pursat. Back LtoR: Boris, Thierry, Oladiji, Obadin, Srin, Pisa. Front: Rady, Makara, Phearun, Ary, Pheng.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Crown on tour

The PPCFC seniors and academy squads at a ground near you this weekend - click to enlarge
With the Cambodian national team in the Philippines with four of Phnom Penh Crown's finest amongst their ranks, the remainder of Crown's squad heads for the northwest provinces of Cambodia early tomorrow morning in a weekend tour designed to bring one of the country's best clubs into contact with as many football lovers in that part of the Kingdom as possible. Kicking off in Kompong Chhnang, the Crown seniors will meet a select team at 9am before moving onto Pursat, where they will meet Ratanakea FC, the top team in the city at 3pm. A quick dash to sleep overnight in Poipet, Crown will meet a local Thai team on Saturday afternoon, before heading to Battambang early on Sunday morning to meet Thaneakea Srov FC at 10am. They will attend the finals of the SALT Academy league in the afternoon, before heading back to Phnom Penh, their task of bringing top level football to the northwest masses complete. The full squad, minus Sokumpheak, Borey, Seiha and Suhana, will make the trek, and will be accompanied by the Academy squad, who will also take the opportunity to play three games, including a mouth-watering clash against the best female team in the country, Battambang's Mighty Girls, on Sunday morning. It promises to be an eye-opener for all concerned and another step on the ladder of Crown's multifaceted community and fan engagement program, that the club is committed to.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Grapevine news

The grapevine informs me, before any official announcement, that Cambodia will take a squad of 22 players to the Philippines on Wednesday ready for their first AFC Challenge Cup qualifying tie against Turkmenistan two days later on Friday. From the squad of 25 players who took on Boeung Ket in last Friday's practice match, I understand that two players carrying injuries, Naga's Choun Chum and Sun Sovannrithy, will not travel, as well as PKR's Khuon Laboravy, just back after a seven month spell on the touchlines. That means that four Phnom Penh Crown players will make the trip - goalkeeper Samrith Seiha, Sos Suhana, Kouch Sokumpheak and Khim Borey. After the Turkmenistan game on 22 March, Cambodia meet hosts Philippines on Sunday (24 Mar) and then Brunei on Tuesday (26 Mar). Only the group winners are guaranteed entry into next year's finals. Turkmenistan are the favourites to top the table though the Philippines will be gunning for goals in their matches against Brunei and Cambodia in an effort to get the best-placed runners-up spot, as two second-placed teams also qualify. It's a very tough task for Cambodia against nations of the caliber of Turkmenistan and Philippines, who will call on eight overseas players for their squad, and their best bet for a positive result must be against the ever-improving Brunei.
The Cambodia squad is as follows: Yaty, Seiha, Bunchhay, Raksmey, Khemrin, Pancharong, Tiny, Piseth, Thavrak, Rithy, Narith, Phallin, Sopanha, Veasna, Chanrasmey, PM Udom, Chhoeun, Suhana, Vathanak, Borey, Vathanaka, Sokumpheak.

More Academy victories

The PPCFC Academy 2 team. Back LtoR: Chanpolin, Sovann, Sodavid, Soksela, Senteang, Titchhy. Front: Phearath, T Chhaya, Muslim, Nuron, Chansopheak.
The two Phnom Penh Crown Academy teams recorded victories in the Cambodia Football Development League on Sunday afternoon, as they brought down the curtain on no less than eleven youth matches at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork at U-12, U-14 and U-16 age levels throughout the day. Just a few weeks ago, up to 300 youngsters were not playing regular competitive football, but they are now. And they are loving it. You just have to see some of the goal celebrations to know that. The Academy 2 team maintained their winning record at the top of the U-16 table. They beat Prek Kdam 4-2 despite going behind. Chhuot Senteang equalised from Orn Chanpolin's pass, and two minutes later Yeu Muslim slotted home after Senteang's initial shot was blocked. In the second half, Ken Chansopheak was felled and Sraing Titchhy netted from the penalty spot. Senteang wrapped it up with another cool finish from Long Phearath's cross. In the preceding game, the Academy 1 team had put the PPCFC 3 community team in their place, 3-1, after they went behind to an own goal, headed in by Seut Baraing. After the interval, the Academy stepped on the gas and Baraing saved face by putting a penalty in the top corner, after Pov Ponvuthy was fouled. Ponvuthy then raced clear to finish and Mat Sakrovy wrapped it up, but only after the same player had his spot-kick saved, awarded for a trip on Nop David. In the morning CFDL games, the PPCFC 2 U-12 team came a cropper, losing 13-0 to Prek Kdam. In the U-14 games, both PPCFC teams fought gallantly before going down to defeat. PPCFC 2 lost 2-1 to Young Wolf and PPCFC 1 just couldn't pull back the deficit against SSCA 1, losing 4-3.
The PPCFC Academy 1 team. Back Row LtoR: Piphop, Sakrovy, Baraing, S Samnang, Chanchav, K Chhaya. Front: V Samnang, Noeut, Ponvuthy, David, Rozak.

The PPCFC 3 Community team in the U-16s competition

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cam sign-off with win

Cambodia in the 2nd half. Back Row, LtoR: Udom, Piseth, Raksmey, Yaty, Rithy, Phallin. Front: Veasna, Suhana, Pancharong, Borey, Vathanaka.

The Cambodian national team signed off with a successful practice match victory this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium, beating the C-League leaders Boeung Ket 2-1. I don't know why they kicked-off at 2 o'clock as the heat was unbearable, but they did and the first half suffered as a result, with neither team showing much in the way of exciting football. Prak Sovannara gave most of his squad game-time, making ten changes at the interval. By that time, the only two noteworthy elements of the first 45 minutes was Boeung Ket's opener and an open and shut penalty which the referee inexplicably didn't see. Keo Sokngorn may get a slight touch of satisfaction from scoring on 15 minutes when two defenders gave him too much room and he managed to put his shot beyond the reach of keeper Samrith Seiha. Sokngorn had been dismissed from Sovannara's squad just a week earlier. On the half-hour Chhin Chhoeun was pulled down in the Boeung Ket box for a nailed-on spot-kick which was ignored by the referee, much to everyone's surprise.

With Sovannara's first-choice eleven on view for the second-half, there was an obvious improvement in pace and passing and Boeung Ket found it hard to live with it. Their top scorer Bisan George was replaced after failing to shine and at the other end, a nippy burst by Sos Suhana was unlucky not to equalise. A minute after the hour mark and Cambodia drew level. Suon Veasna sent in a cross that Chan Vathanaka left and as the ball bounced, Peng Bunchhay took his eye off it and the ball crept inside the far post. Though chances were few and far between, the national team coach will be pleased with their match winner just two minutes from time. Vathanaka spotted the late arrival of center-half Sok Rithy into the box, picked him out with a perfect pass and the lanky defender took on the role of goalscorer with a neat sidestep and powerful finish inside Bunchhay's near post. The make-up of the national team in the second period certainly worked with Veasna and Hoy Phallin looking neat and tidy in midfield, Borey worked hard up front and won every header while Vathanaka is definitely the team's man-most-likely to do damage. Sovannara now has to cull five players from the 25-man squad, before he heads for the Philippines and the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers later next week.
Cambodia line-up: Seiha (Yaty 46), Raksmey, Khmerin (Pancharong 46), Tiny (Piseth 46), Thavrak (Rithy 46), Narith (Phallin 46), Sopanha (Veasna 46), Chanrasmey (PM Udom 46), Chhoeun (Suhana 47 (Vathanak 70)), Laboravy (Vathanaka 46), Sokumpheak (Borey 46). Subs not used: Chum, Sovannrithy. Booking: Suhana.
Cambodia in the 1st half: Back Row, LtoR: Thavrak, Tiny, Raksmey, Seiha, Laboravy, Narith. Front: Sopanha, Chanraksmey, Chhoeun, Sokumpheak, Khemrin.

Two of Cambodia's comeback stars, Kouch Sokumpheak (10) and Khuon Laboravy (8)

The starting XI for Boeung Ket included BBU's Chhun Sothearath (with head cap)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Slim chances

Let's be very clear about this, Cambodia's chances of qualifying for the eight-team AFC Challenge Cup final stages next year are about as slim as they can get. Buoyed by their recent win over the Malaysian U-23s, they take on Boeung Ket, the MCL leaders in a friendly tomorrow at the Olympic Stadium, before they head to Manila in the Philippines for their three much tougher Challenge Cup qualifying matches between 22-26 March. Their chances are pretty much non-existent because they face Turkmenistan in their first match on 22 March and the former Soviet Union republic are one of the strongest teams in the region. In fact they finished runners-up in the last two competitions, beaten on both occasions by North Korea. Also in group E and meeting Cambodia on 24 March, are hosts the Philippines, the third placed team in the Challenge Cup in 2012 and like Turkmenistan, some forty or so places above Cambodia in the FIFA world rankings. Cambodia may look to their 0-0 draw with the Philippines at the Olympic Stadium last September for some comfort, but the Azkals take their cup football very seriously, so we can safely ignore that result. The third opponent for Cambodia will be Brunei Darussalam, on 26 March, a place below the Khmers in the FIFA rankings, at 186th, but they are on the up and beat Cambodia in their last meeting, a 3-2 Suzuki Cup win last October. That final game will likely decide the group wooden spoonists, so there is pride at stake, if results go with form. Only the group winners from the five groups, and the two best runners-up will go onto join the hosts, Maldives in the finals. Initially, Cambodia withdrew from the competition last October, citing financial and competitive concerns - they may live to regret changing their minds.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Playing for Cambodia

The Phnom Penh Crown U-15 Academy, expected to provide the bulk of the Cambodia U-16 squad - click to enlarge
This year will see a wealth of opportunities for the best young football talent in Cambodia to get the chance to represent their country in age group competitions at U-14, U-16 and U-19 levels. First up is the U-14 national team who will travel to Myanmar between 28 May-3 June to play in the brand new AFC U-14 Championship qualifiers. 46 nations in 8 groups with eight teams qualifying for the finals in 2014. Cambodia have been drawn into group F alongside Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand. In the middle of last year, Bouy Dary, the Academy coach at Phnom Penh Crown, took charge of the Cambodia U-14 team which travelled to Malaysia to take part in the AFC U-14 Festival of Football. In their nine matches, Cambodia drew three and lost six of their games, in what Dary described as a very promising series of performances against such nations as Australia, Thailand and Vietnam. This year, the new U-14 Championship will enable at least half a dozen of that squad to try for selection again because of their tender years. There has been no news from the Federation yet as to who will be in charge.

The same goes for the Cambodia U-16 team that will travel to Napyidaw in Myanmar to take part in the AFF U-16 Championship qualifiers between 20-31 August. Cambodia are in group A with Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar and Australia. The last time Cambodia played at U-16 level, they got walloped in the AFC U-16s under the tutelage of Daisuke Yoshioka. Again, we await the name of the coach that will be installed by the FFC. The make-up of the U-16 squad will be interesting with the Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters having beaten all before them on the domestic stage and having gained experience playing overseas in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. They should provide the bulk of the squad, though only three of them have reached their 15th birthday, most of the others are just 14. Nevertheless, only Preah Khan Reach can live with them out of the local teams, so expect PKR to supply a few squad players too. In the AFF U-19 Championship category, Cambodia will travel to Dili in East Timor between 21-28 September, having been drawn in group A with Laos, Philippines, Australia, Timor Leste and Singapore. Expect quite a few PKR names in that squad, whoever is appointed coach. Also on the horizon, in girls football, are the national championship in the middle of May, and an international tournament in late July. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dani pops up to sink PPC

PPCFC v AEU. Back Row LtoR: Boris, Rady, Dary, Lika, Thierry, Srin. Front: Phearun, Morslim, Pisa, Seyha, Ary
Asia Euro University provided the opposition again this morning as Phnom Penh Crown coach Sam Schweingruber gave a run-out to his squad players who didn't play the day before in the 2-0 win over the Army. It's useful match practice for the squad and an opportunity to see how the younger players are progressing. It also gave the coach the opportunity to blood a second Academy youngster, 14-year-old Sraing Titchhy this morning, for the final fifteen minutes of the match. The other Academy defender, Seut Baraing, just 13 and who trains with the senior players every morning, had joined the game at half-time. The game, two halves of 35 minutes each, didn't quite go Crown's way with AEU scoring on 27 minutes. In the 42nd minute Ngoy Srin converted a penalty to make it level at 1-1 after Mak Phearun had been felled, but in time added on, Kouch Dani scored the winner against his former club. 
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Seyha (Baraing 35), Phearun (Titchhy 55), Srin, Lika, Boris (Hasan 55), Thierry, Rady (Morslim 55), Pisa, Morslim (Kano 35), Dary (Dara 35).

Hat-trick for U-16s

PPCFC2 starting line-up. Back Row LtoR: Sodavid, Sovann, Soksela, Senteang, Chanpolin, Titchhy. Front: Phearath, Muslim, Nuron, T Chhaya, Chansopheak - click to enlarge
The match of the day in the Cambodia Football Development League on Sunday morning at RSN Stadium was the crunch game between the Phnom Penh Academy 2 team and Preah Khan Reach in the U-16 competition. The week before PKR had beaten the Academy 1 team and were out to make it a double. They were in for a rude awakening. It took just 26 seconds for Chhuot Senteang to send a 25-yard drive into the top corner for the opening Academy goal. Four minutes later and In Sodavid tapped in a Senteang pass for number two. PKR scored from a dubious penalty award but a minute before the break, Senteang blocked a goalkeeper clearance and Mat Nuron rolled the loose ball into the net. Yeu Muslim hit the post with a chip before Senteang made the game safe nine minutes into the second half when he challenged the keeper on the edge of the box and rounded him to score with ease. A match of the day worthy of the tag with the Academy 2 boys winning 4-1. In the earlier game, the Academy 1 team beat Prek Kdam 4-0 with Mat Sakrovy on fire, scoring all four goals, with three of them coming in the second-half. The third Crown team in the U-16 comp, the community boys under Kouch Sokumpheak, made it a hat-trick of wins with their first success, 2-1 against Rising Stars. In the U-12s the PPCFC 1 team went down 5-1 to PKR1 under the watchful eye of their new coach, ex-Cambodian U-16 girls player Srey Teav.
PPCFC 1 team. Back Row LtoR: Sakrovy, Beut, Chanchav, S Samnang, Baraing, K Chhaya. Front: Piphop, Rozak, V Samnang, Ponvuthy, David

The PPCFC 3 community boys team, 2-1 winners on the day at U-16

Srey Teav with the PPCFC 1 and 2 U-12 teams - click to enlarge

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pheak on target

PPCFC line-up. Back Row LtoR: Oladiji, Hasan, Da, Pheng, Obadin, Narin. Front: Sothy, Suhana, Seiha, Borey, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge
Practice makes perfect. Well it certainly did for giant Phnom Penh Crown centre-half Odion Obadin in Sunday's Metfone C-League encounter with Army at Olympic Stadium. With just over an hour of the game gone and match-winning opportunities at a premium, Obadin trotted forward for a couple of corners, hoping to make use of his height advantage. Crown coach Sam Schweingruber admitted after the match that hours on the training ground with Obadin heading hundreds of balls into the goal paid dividends. Initially, Obadin was thwarted when his downward header from Kouch Sokumpheak's flag-kick was palmed aside by Army keeper Um Vichet as it bounced towards the top corner. Four minutes later and Obadin was celebrating his first goal of the season with a forward role and joyful embrace with his Nigerian teammate Nelson Oladiji. This time, Ouk Sothy's corner from the right cleared everyone in the box except the leaping defender, who powered his header into the unguarded net on 64 minutes. It broke the deadlock. Five minutes later and Crown registered a second strike and the match result was settled. This time the celebrations were just as joyous as it was Kouch Sokumpheak, enjoying his first start in a Crown shirt for eight months, who was on hand to tuck the ball under Vichet's body, after Hong Pheng and Oladiji undid the Army defence on their right flank and Khim Borey got the slightest of touches to steer it into Sokumpheak's path. The fans favourite made no mistake from six yards out. His job done, he left the pitch moments later to deserved applause.

With three regulars missing, coach Schweingruber had to alter the make-up of his team for this revenge duel after the Army knocked Crown out of the Hun Sen Cup a month ago. Sokumpheak sent a left-foot drive wide early on and Borey went over in the box but didn't convince the referee that Vichet had caught his foot. Next, a close-range Borey header caused Vichet to tip over and a few dangerous balls into the box failed to produce the killer touch from either Sokumpheak or Sothy. The Army's best chance fell to Meak Chhordaravuth but he screwed his clear opening wide. The final chance of the first-half fell to Oladiji but his shot from Sokumpheak's pull-back was deflected over the cross-bar. The Army briefly found their voice at the start of the second half. Phoung Soksana touched a Pom Tola center onto the bar and Leng Narin cleared the danger, and Chhordaravuth spanked a powerful drive that stung the hands of Samrith Seiha. That was effectively it as Crown took control and killed off their opponents with two goals in a five minute spell. With Obadin and Sokumpheak's efforts in the bag, Sos Suhana blasted over after a neat interchange between Borey and Oladiji had set him up. Hong Pheng, pushed forward from full-back, swung his right foot at a Sothy cross and sent it skyward, while Suhana's header was deflected at the death by the outstretched leg of Net Vesana.

Crown coach Schweingruber was happy with the points but not the performance. "For the first 20 minutes were were extremely poor. I don't think we won any ball in midfield, or 50-50 balls, we were really struggling. After that we were better organised but all in all too many mistakes and a lack of quality all over. First ten minutes after the interval, we nearly conceded one, so I put in some fresh legs but we still struggled until we scored from the corner kick. If you look at the corners, we had about 12 to 3, we were more in their area but we failed to create great chances and we made too many individual mistakes. We spent 3 days this week after training, working with Tony (Obadin) and he must've had 250 headers in total. Obviously that makes me proud that he scored today. I'm very happy to see Sokumpheak on the scoresheet too. We still have to work on his fitness over 90 minutes and fitting him better into the team, but I'm happy for his confidence that he scored today." The win takes Crown up to second place in the MCL table.
PPCFC line-up: Seiha, Da (Rady 60), Pheng, Narin, Obadin, Sothy, Hasan (Seyha 60), Suhana, Oladiji, Sokumpheak (Pisa 70), Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Dara, Lika, Srin, Dary, Kano, Phearun, Morslim. Bookings: Pheng, Seyha. MOTM: Obadin.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Late leveller

National Police left it late to grab a 1-1 draw
Metfone C-League action at Olympic Stadium today saw National Police leave it very late, with just a minute to go, to level matters against Kirivong. A pretty even game looked like going Kirivong's way after Friday Nwakuna put them ahead five minute before the half-time break, finishing off a pass from Mam Sophal. David Njoku hit the post midway through the second half but it was the Police who had the last laugh. Nov Soseila looked dangerous whenever he got the ball and his short pass to Tith Dina, who curled a shot home from fifteen yards a minute from the end gave Police a share of the spoils. Over at the Army Stadium, NagaCorp also left it very late with two goals from Ishola Abiodun in the closing stages to earn them a 2-0 win over AEU. The second game at Olympic saw leaders Boeung Ket win their fifth game in five starts, beating BBU 5-0. New signing Sok Pheng whacked in a left foot drive on 13 minutes and it looked like one-way traffic from there. However, BBU had other ideas and it needed a fine Peng Bunchhay stop and a goal-line clearance to maintain their advantage. Ten minutes before the interval and Keo Sokngon headed in from close range and Chukwuma Ohuruogu did likewise two minutes before the break. Bunchhay had to make two more good saves after the restart to keep his goal intact while Oum Kumpheak headed in the Rubbermen's fourth over a stranded BBU debutant keeper Khek Chan Sambattey. Sumaila Momoh added the final nail in time added on.
Kirivong were held to a 1-1 draw with National Police

BBU came badly unstuck against Boeung Ket, losing 5-0

The Rubbermen made in 5 wins in five matches

Friday, March 8, 2013


Cambodia singing the national anthem
Time to catch up with some more photos from Wednesday's international friendly which Cambodia won 3-1 against their regular opponents, Malaysia U-23s. In many ways it was a surprising and very welcome success. Malaysia on paper, are better than what they demonstrated on Wednesday. They will be seeking to secure a hat-trick of SEA Games wins at the end of the year. If they play like they did on Wednesday, they have no hope of achieving that. Conversely, Cambodia can take heart from their win, as they build up to the AFC Challenge Cup later this month. They didn't go gung-ho into the game, preferring to get all 11 players behind the ball for corners and free-kicks, which is a mite negative, and was the same tactic they employed against the university team from Korea. It's not my preferred tactic but it worked against Malaysia, who couldn't break them down or get past Sou Yaty in goal. Likely first choice Sun Sovannrithy and Chan Vathanaka also sat out the game, injured. It was disappointing that Kouch Sokumpheak got just a few minutes at the end of the game, but very pleased with Khim Borey's performance, after he got an early run-out following Choun Chum's injury. He scored with virtually his first touch and made the third for Khuon Laboravy.
The Cambodia team face their national flag

Lining up LtoR: Tieng Tiny, Say Piseth, Prak M Udom, Choun Chum

Lto R: Touch Pancharong, Suon Veasna, Lay Raksmey, Teab Vathanak

Lto R: Teab Vathanak, Sos Suhana, Sou Yaty, San Narith (capt)

The Cambodia bench with coaching staff and substitutes

The Malaysian U-23 starting XI

Some of the Cambodia subs including Kouch Sokumpheak and Samrith Seiha

More Cambodia subs including Khim Borey

Head coach Prak Sovannara facing the press after the final whistle

The PPCFC Academy youngsters in red attending the match

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cambodia shine

Cambodia's starting XI. Back LtoR: Udom, Yaty, Raksmey, Piseth, Tiny, Narith. Front: Chum, Veasna, Vathanak, Suhana, Pancharong

Cambodia's national team gave their fans, and themselves, a much-needed boost in the arm by defeating the Malaysian U-23s this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium. The scoreline was 3-1 and with a bit more luck it could've been a wider winning margin. The Malays are no slouches, though they certainly didn't live up to the hype in today's game. Recent draws against the national teams of Laos and Myanmar, a tour down under in Australia and an upcoming training stint in Europe, not to mention a full season, finishing 4th in the Singapore League last year under the name of Harimau Muda A, is an impressive CV. Their goal is the SEA Games in December, with the country having won the past two competitions in 2009 and 2011. On their performance at the Olympic Stadium today, they won't have a cat in hell's chance. Though their strikers kept Sou Yaty's hands warm with a couple of long-range attempts early on in today's friendly encounter, a deflected cross that flicked off the shin of Tieng Tiny was Yaty's main source of concern before Cambodia took a surprise tenth minute lead. With Choun Chum limping off to be replaced by Khim Borey on seven minutes, the Crown striker made an immediate impact. Malay keeper Izham Roslan lost his bearings as he came out of his area and Borey spotted his chance to roll the ball into an empty net from just outside the box. 1-nil and Borey couldn't quite believe his luck. Bulky Izzaq Ramlan looked as though he might cause Cambodia a few problems when he rounded Yaty after Say Piseth's weak header, but he went too wide and then planted a header over the top soon after. Prak Mony Udom chased a San Narith ball over the top and got to it before the onrushing Roslan, but couldn't direct his heavy touch goalwards. In the final minute of the opening half, Cambodia stunned the Malaysians with a second goal at just the right time. Udom, growing in maturity this season, poked a pass through for Teab Vathanak and the Naga midfielder dinked a tidy finish past Roslan. He almost repeated the feat in injury time but lobbed well over from Borey's give and go.

Tieng Tiny's rash penalty box challenge in the first minute of the 2nd half was ignored by local ref Thong Chankethya and a minute later, Yaty dived full length to keep out a downward header by Wan Zack Wan Nor as the visiting U-23s pushed forward. Sixteen minutes in and skipper San Narith was replaced, with the armband passing to Borey. Two minutes later and Malaysia reduced the deficit. A scuffed free-kick through a sea of legs was turned in my Thamil Arasu and it looked as though Cambodia would have a battle on their hands. Despite Malaysia throwing on four fresh faces, the onslaught never happened and it was the home side who came up with the better ideas. Borey cut inside and curled a shot into Roslan's hands, while Chhin Chhoeun's lob on the run went the wrong side of the upright. With five minutes left on the clock, Borey and Chhoeun exchanged long-range passes and the temporary captain's cross to the far post was nodded down and in by substitute Khuon Laboravy, much to the relief of the audience. Kouch Sokumpheak appeared for a brief cameo and it needed two more diving Yaty saves to keep the result at 3-1 in Cambodia's favour. Coach Prak Sovannara declared himself; "very proud of the team and the performance is what we wanted, and it reinforces what we are trying to achieve as we aim for the Philippines later this month." The national coach chose a mixed team with old hands such as San Narith, Tieng Tiny, Choun Chum and Teab Vathanak rubbing shoulders with the younger element of Soun Veasna, Prak Mony Udom and sub Hoy Phallin. The national team will go into training camp from Sunday and may squeeze one more friendly in before they head to Philippines for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers between 22-26 of this month.
Cambodia line-up: Yaty, Raksmey (Sokumpheak 88), Pancharong, Piseth, Tiny, Veasna (Khemarin 64), Narith (Phallin 61), Vathanak (Laboravy 74), Suhana (Chhoeun 49), PM Udom, Chum (Borey 7). Subs not used: Seiha, Bunchhay, Thavrak, Sopanha, Sovannrithy, Rithy, Vatahanak, Chanrasmey. MOTM: PM Udom.
The 4 Phnom Penh Crown players on national team duty. LtoR: Kouch Sokumpheak, Khim Borey, Samrith Seiha, Sos Suhana

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sunday Blues

PPCFC goose-stepping in their warm-up
Another view of the proceedings before and after Phnom Penh Crown's 5-0 drubbing of the Senate Secretariat on Sunday afternoon at Olympic Stadium.
Samrith Seiha, a picture of pre-match concentration

Team captain Khim Borey leading the warm-up

Looking ahead to the match from the tunnel

Khim Borey, back in the side, is captain for the day
A toss-up by match referee Chuop Visal with the team captains

Senate line-up for snaps before the kick-off

The PPCFC community youngsters enjoying their afternoon out

The Azahar Foundation NGO introduces children from the Kien Khleang orphanage to the PPCFC senior players