|Cambodia's keeper Samrith Seiha challenging Philippines' Angel Guirado. Pic: Josh Albelda/Rappler|
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.