Cambodia U-23s crashed out of the Mekong Region BIDC Cup (aka MRYUIFTBIDCCup2013) this afternoon at the semi-final stage, under a hot sun and against the old enemy, Thailand, 2-1 after extra time. Not so bad you might think, and with a bit more fortune it might've been a different result, but that would hide the reality. Yes, Cambodia hit the woodwork a couple of times and once again, came from behind with a scorcher of a goal from Ros Samoeun, but for the most part, coach Lee Tae-Hoon's safety-first tactics and toothless attack didn't cause Thailand enough problems and his decision to leave Chan Vathanaka on the bench until ten minutes before the end of normal time, is a reflection of his unadventurous mentality. When you realise that of the Thai team, who won the game in extra time with their own wonder strike, not one of them will appear in the SEA Games next month, then you start to appreciate the gulf between the two countries at this level. One of the positives to come out of this match and the other two group games for Cambodia, both 2-2 draws against Malaysia and Laos, is the growing support and enthusiasm on the terraces. That's very encouraging and reminiscent of the 2009 BIDC Cup success for the country. Only for those hopes to be cruelly dashed once the SEA Games got under way in Laos. I fear exactly the same will happen next month in Myanmar.
With Prak Mony Udom out with a thigh strain, the team virtually picked itself as the coach reverted to his favoured 4-1-4-1 formation, with Bin Thierry sitting deep and Keo Sokngon as the main focus of the attack. Cambodia shaded the first half with Sos Suhana letting rip with an effort that shaved the upright on 11 minutes, and Chhin Chhoeun lacking accuracy as he fired over when well-placed five minutes later. Thailand themselves had lacked adventure and failed to trouble Sou Yaty in the Cambodia goal in the opening 45 minutes. That began to change after the interval as Yaty dived full length to punch away a dangerous cross and watched as Chana Sonwiset's drive fizzed across the face of his goal. At the other end of the pitch, Sokngon chested down a long ball from Sok Rithy but the danger was quickly snuffed out and Thierry let rip with a 25-yard effort that sailed high. On the half hour mark, Cambodia were caught napping and Jirawut Saranan got a touch to a low center from Wanit Jaisaen, which Yaty blocked but the rebound fell kindly to the Thai striker and he tapped home. Going behind was the cue for coach Lee to finally throw on Vathanaka for the final ten minutes, way too late in my view, though it almost paid dividends as the mercurial youngster fed Suhana and his poke goalwards hit the foot of the post. With five minutes left on the clock, a free-kick was cleared out to Ros Samoeun, 35 yards from goal and seizing the opportunity, the young full-back-cum-winger kicked his legs, slalomed around three opponents in what looked like a scene from the parting of the Red Sea, and sent a thunderous left foot drive into the roof of the net from ten yards out. The noise lifted the roof off the grandstand. Game on.
Khek Khemrin replaced Touch Pancharong as Lee looked to shore up his defence with the clock ticking down and extra time approaching. In time added on, Saranan cheekily executed an overhead flourish which Khemrin cleared for a corner. The game went into thirty minutes of extra time. Yaty was alert to catch a shot by Anon Sanmad, dubbed the Neymar of Thailand by his club BEC Tero. The same player was then denied by another Khemrin block. In the second period of extra time, Sanmad left Khemrin for dead with a neat Neymar-esque overhead flick but Yaty was out smartish to block his shot. Not to be denied, on 112 minutes, a corner was cleared to Sanmad at the edge of the box and he slammed a ferocious drive past everyone including Yaty and into the roof of the net to win the tie. Cambodia were floored and had nothing left in the tank. Thailand moved through to the final, where they will meet Myanmar, 1-0 victors over Malaysia in the later semi-final. The final takes place on Sunday, 4pm at Olympic Stadium. For Cambodia, they have a friendly against Guam on 19 November before the squad heads off to Burma for the SEA Games. The SEA Games draw has not been kind to Cambodia, who will face hosts Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia and Timor Leste. For coach Lee, who appears to have his team already fixed in his head, six goals conceded in three matches this week, will give him nightmares and with few attacking options that pose real danger, suggests that the trip to Myanmar will be a long, hard slog.
Cambodia U-23s v Thailand: Yaty,
Pancharong (Khemrin 89), Samoeun, Sovan, Rithy, Thierry, Suhana, Sothearath (Vathanaka 80), Chhoeun, Soksana (Pheng 56), Sokngon. Subs not used: Sophea, Piseth, Sothearoth, Saray, PM Udom, Dara. Bookings: Rithy. MOTM: Rithy - much improved from previous games and stood firm. Goal: Samoeun (85).