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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Most pundits in Manila admired the approach the Cambodian team since clearly, the mentality is they are here to learn and not to win. I heard that they are contemplating pulling out of the tournament but they didn't. And that is admirable enough. The beating is terrible, yes. But I guess learning sometimes is no fun. Cambodia's time will come. Cheers!