Friday, November 29, 2013

Official impact

PPCFC v BBU line-up, back row, LtoR: Boris, Soksela, Pheng, Guerrero, Obadin, Lopez. Front Row: Da, Sosela, Sothy, Sokumpheak, Borey - click to enlarge
Whatever happened to the adage that you never notice a good referee? I don't think that match officials in Cambodia have ever heard it, as in most games I watch, the referee and his assistants usually have a major bearing on the result of the match. In theory, it doesn't matter so much in practice matches, such as this morning's game at the Army Stadium between Phnom Penh Crown and BBU, but it's got to the stage where I'm ready to explode every time the referee puts his whistle to his lips, or not, as in many instances. Take today's game. The referee let some shocking tackles go unpunished and then booked two Crown players for bugger all. It beggars belief. But it was the linesman who incurred my main wrath when he waved his flag to award BBU the equaliser, after he determined that Bun Keo's clearance was behind the goal-line. Let me make this clear, this so-called official, I use the word loosely, could not have seen the whole ball cross the line from his position, at least 10 yards away from the corner flag and huffing and puffing as he dragged his stomach along the touchline. Give someone a little bit of authority (and a uniform) and they will exercise it even if they are clearly not qualified to use it. His impact on the game was to leave the result as a 2-2 draw instead of a 2-1 win for Crown. This happens way too often for my liking.

Back to the game itself. This was Crown's 14th pre-season practice match. Now that the start of the Hun Sen Cup has been pushed back until late January, there will be time for quite a few more before the season begins. Sam Schweingruber had to select a team missing as many as ten players, mostly through injury, though Ian Mariano, one of three players on trial from Guam, had to go back home with a stomach upset just before the start. Chupe, who netted twice against AEU recently, has not been seen again, so the other two Guam players were given the striking roles. In goal, Keo Soksela replaced Yok Ary who will be out for a few weeks after an x-ray revealed a small fracture in his collarbone, sustained in China. In the opening twelve minutes Neou Sosela fired past the post a couple of times when more composure with his finish was required and Soksela dived full length to turn a shot around the upright. Kouch Sokumpheak screwed a shot wide before a weak clearance from Soksela was fired straight back over his head to open the scoring on 15 minutes in BBU's favour. Four minutes later, Crown were level as Marcus Lopez sent Scott Leon Guerrero away with a delightful first-time pass and the Guam utility player sidestepped the keeper and rolled the ball into an unguarded net. Lopez was clattered as he made the pass but was booked by the referee for complaining. Another mind-numbing decision. Guerrero was in full flow as he first set up Sokumpheak, who mishit his shot wide and then Khim Borey, who fired weakly at the keeper with his passage to goal wide open. Two minutes before the break, it was Guerrero again who raced onto Sokumpheak's pass and saw his low center take a deflection of a defender's toe and loop into the net to put Crown 2-1 ahead.

George Bisan replaced a limping Lopez at the interval but limped off himself after just two minutes, returning nearly ten minutes later, after treatment. He had the best chance of the second period, which was devoid of much goalmouth activity, when his header from Borey's free-kick went inches wide, and he got clattered by the keeper for his troubles, on 72 minutes. Crown used all 7 substitutes and it looked like Keo had earned his corn when he whacked a floated cross-cum-shot which had eluded Soksela, away from the far post only to see the linesman busting a gut to wave his flag and have an impact on the game. His decision, on 76 minutes, gave BBU a 2-2 draw. It was probably a fair reflection over the 90 minutes but that doesn't exempt the match officials from criticism. 
PPCFC v BBU: Soksela, Da (Keo 76), Pheng (Srin 66), Boris (Sarak 76), Obadin, Sothy (Pisa 84), Sokumpheak, Sosela (Bisan 56), Borey (Morslim 87), Lopez (Bisan 46 (Tola 48 (Phearun 84))), Guerrero (Titchhy 87). Bookings: Lopez, Obadin. MOTM: Guerrero. Goals: Guerrero (19), OG (43).

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In total control

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy U-17s match with SSCA yesterday afternoon went to plan in the first half as Crown led 3-nil and were in total control. Just after Pov Ponvuthy had a goal ruled out for offside, In Sodavid popped up to get on the end of a Mat Nuron cross into the area after 14 minutes, to open the scoring, after the keeper blocked his first attempt. Sraing Titchhy was bizarrely booked for taking a free-kick too quickly and Orn Chanpolin volleyed wide before a minute before the half hour, Mat Sakrovy made it two, as he rounded off a surge into the box by Ponvuthy. The referee waved aside penalty appeals as Yeu Muslim and Titchhy went sprawling in the box, before the latter netted the third as he pushed up six minutes before the break, guiding a Sakrovy pass past the keeper. To avoid any possibility of another howler of a decision by the match official, Chhuot Senteang replaced Titchhy before half-time, his first action for 3 months and settled into a central defensive position. As for the 2nd half, it was mostly one-way traffic but Crown's final ball was missing and there was no more scoring. Vat Samnang and Chanpolin tested the keeper and Long Phearath weaved past three players and was tripped, but again the referee refused to award a spot-kick. Crown keeper Keo Soksela produced a lovely fingertip diving save to deny SSCA as they broke from Crown's stranglehold. A fully deserved victory though the winning margin should've been a lot greater.
PPCFC U-17s: Soksela, Chansopheak, Phearath, Sovann, Titchhy (Senteang 45), Chanpolin, Sodavid, Sakrovy (V Samnang 54), Nuron (T Chhaya 54), Ponvuthy, Muslim. Subs not used: Chanvuthy, Ronaldo. Booking: Titchhy. MOTM: Sodavid - cool under pressure.
PPCFC v SSCA. Back Row LtoR: Chanpolin, Sakrovy, Soksela, Titchhy, Sodavid, Sovann (capt). Front: Phearath, Muslim, Chansopheak, Nuron, Ponvuthy - click to enlarge

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hutchy joins Crown

Liam Hutchinson, deep in concentration
Phnom Penh Crown have added a third foreign player to their roster by agreeing terms with versatile defender-cum-midfielder Liam Hutchinson. 22 years old, Hutchy was born in Pontypridd in Wales, attended Cymmer Secondary School and whilst studying his BTEC National Diploma in Sports at Pencoed College he gained six international caps for the Welsh Colleges team. He went onto play for Ton Pentre before a successful two years with Cambrian & Clydach where the team won the Welsh League Division 1 championship and were Welsh League Cup runners-up. His selection for the Wales national futsal team was cut short when he moved to Australia in April this year to play for Bunbury Forum Force in the West Australia State League, before he arrived in Cambodia in October. His versatility, his height, he stands 1.92m tall, and dead-ball expertise will be invaluable additions to coach Sam Schweingruber's options. Liam joins Odion Obadin and George Bisan as PPCFC's foreign contingent ahead of the upcoming new season.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Time for change

As we approach the SEA Games in Myanmar in just over a couple of weeks time, I want everyone to be very clear about Cambodia's record under the current head coach, Lee Tae-Hoon. In competitive football matches under his command, Cambodia has played 24 games and won just 4.  In what we could term serious friendlies, such as the recent matches against Guam and in Singapore, the record is played 11 and won just two. In Myanmar, we are in the toughest group and will come face to face with Thailand, Indonesia, the hosts Myanmar and Timor-Leste. None of those games will bring any respite from the numerous reversals we have suffered. Of course, the position of coach of the Cambodian football team is not an easy one. Some might say it's a thankless task. I disagree. You get the right man for the job and as we have seen in other countries, take Guam as an obvious example, miracles are indeed possible. So it doesn't take a genius to work out my despair when Lee returned to coach the national team in August. His abysmal record and frankly his negative tactics are in my opinion, not moving Cambodian football forward in any way, shape or form. It's time for everyone to wake up and smell the coffee. In the best interests of Cambodian football, we need to make a change now.
This is Lee Tae-Hoon's record whilst in charge of the Cambodia national team:
Competition Results:
22 Oct 2010 v Laos (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Drew 0-0
24 Oct 2010 v Timor Leste (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Won 4-2 Borey 3, Sinoun
26 Oct 2010 v Philippines (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Drew 0-0
9 Feb 2011 v Macau (AFC Challenge Cup Qual) Home. Won 3-1 El Nasa 2, Laboravy
16 Feb 2011 v Macau (AFC Challenge Cup Qual) Away. Lost 2-3 Borey, El Nasa
21 Mar 2011 v Maldives (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 0-4
23 Mar 2011 v Tajikistan (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 0-3
25 Mar 2011 v Kyrgyzstan (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 3-4 Sokumpheak, Rithy
29 Jun 2011 v Laos (World Cup Qual) Home. Won 4-2 Laboravy, El Nasa 2, Sokumpheak
3 Jul 2011 v Laos (World Cup Qual) Away. Lost 2-6 aet Chhoeun, Sokumpheak
9 Oct 2011 v Laos (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Won 2-0 Soksana, Laboravy
12 Oct 2011 v Myanmar (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Drew 2-2 Udom pen, Saray
14 Oct 2011 v Thailand (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Lost 1-2 Sovan
7 Nov 2011 v Indonesia (SEA Games) Away. Lost 0-6
9 Nov 2011 v Singapore (SEA Games) Away. Lost 1-2 Chhoeun
11 Nov 2011 v Thailand (SEA Games) Away. Lost 0-4
13 Nov 2011 v Malaysia (SEA Games) Away. Lost 1-4 Chhoeun
25 Feb 2012 v Brunei (Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy) Away. Lost 2-3 Udom pen, Vathanaka
27 Feb 2012 v Vietnam (HBT) Away. Lost 1-2 Vathanak
29 Feb 2012 v Timor Leste (HBT) Away. Lost 0-1
5 Mar 2012 v Malaysia (HBT) Away. Lost 1-3 Sothearath
2 Nov 2013 v Malaysia (BIDC Cup) Home. Drew 2-2 Sokngon, Vathanaka
6 Nov 2013 v Laos (BIDC Cup) Home. Drew 2-2 Sokngon, Chhoeun
8 Nov 2013 v Thailand (BIDC Cup) Home. Lost 1-2 aet Samoeun
Record: Pld 24 Won 4 Drew 5 Lost 15 Goals For 34 Agst 60


Friendlies:
18 Sep 2010 v Vietnam U-23 Away. Lost 0-2
21 Sep 2010 v Vietnam U-23 Away. Lost 0-3
5 Dec 2010 v Ulsan University Home. Lost 1-4 own goal
7 Jun 2011 v Malaysia Olympic XI Home. Won 1-0 Laboravy
28 Oct 2011 v Nepal U-23 Home. Lost 0-1
14 Jan 2012 v Malaysia U-23 Home. Lost 0-1
27 Jan 2012 v Ulsan University Home. Drew 3-3 Vathanaka, Chhoeun, S Udom
29 Jan 2012 v Ulsan University Home. Lost 1-2 Vathanaka
19 Nov 2013 v Guam Home. Lost 0-2
22 Nov 2013 v Singapore U-23 Away. Won 1-0 Vathanaka
24 Nov 2013 v Singapore U-23 Away. Lost 0-1.
Record: Pld 11 Won 2 Drew 1 Lost 8 Goals For 7 Agst 19

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Back down to earth

The Cambodia U-23s came back down to earth tonight, beaten 1-0 by the Singapore U-23 side that will compete in next month's SEA Games, after Cambodia had managed to beat a weaker home line-up two days earlier. The match was on grass at the Hougang Stadium and the Cambodia starting line-up included three Phnom Penh Crown players in Sou Yaty, Sos Suhana and the return of Bin Thierry. Yaty got the MOTM vote for a series of saves that kept his team in the game until Singapore scored the match winner on 75 minutes, with Touch Pancharong getting the final touch to send it over the line, though Suhana blasted over when well-placed ten minutes earlier with Cambodia's best chance of the game. Coach Lee Tae-Hoon had this to say: “Of course I’m not happy, no coach is happy to lose a game. But Singapore is a better team than Cambodia and I like our players’ performances tonight.” The Singapore coach summed up Cambodia thus: “It’s not easy playing a team like Cambodia, who will sit back and stay compact,” which pretty much hits the nail on the head in terms of Cambodia's tactics as they head towards the SEA Games. Lee's strategy is clearly one of containment rather than taking the game to the opposition - he made that blatantly clear against Guam by not playing a striker for an hour - and he will have his work cut out to keep Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia and Timor Leste from going on the rampage when they meet Cambodia in Yangon between 7-16 December.

Crown in another rout

PPCFC U-15s Back row, LtoR: Saphy, Sovannaroth, Baraing, Chanchav, Chhaya, Rafat. Front: Chanmony, Kakada, Piphop, Noeut, Piseth (capt) - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown Academy U-15s are on a mission this season it seems. To destroy every team they meet in the new Cambodia U-15 Youth League. So far they have won their matches, 27-0, 8-1, 21-0 and earlier today, on a pitch that was a nightmare for both teams, they ran out 23-0 winners over the plucky Komar Ampor Wan youngsters at the Dept of Sports field in Tuol Kork. Overnight rain left the pitch waterlogged with surface water lying in pools that made passing football a non-event over most of the field. That said, Crown's strength on the ball, their control, passing and superior fitness was the main obstacle that the opposition couldn't handle. On a better surface, goodness knows what the final score would've been. With just thirteen players to choose from, with Lim Pisoth out with a broken arm and others also missing through injury, coach Bouy Dary kept Suon Noeut in attack and he responded with another seven goals, taking his personal tally to 31 goals in 4 games. Sin Kakada opened the sluice-gates on five minutes with a calm finish and Noeut was quick to join him, tapping in a Seut Baraing cross. On 14 minutes, Men Piphop was brought down and promptly got up to plant his 20-yard free-kick into the top corner. Three minutes later and Kim Chhaya found the same top corner from the same distance. It was his fifth effort on goal, though the only one on target. 21 minutes in and Noeut placed Kakada's cross into the bottom corner and a minute later, skipper Mao Piseth cut inside onto Piphop's blocked shot and lifted the ball into the roof of the net. Another minute on and Piphop whacked in Crown's seventh from the edge of the area. Noeut's hat-trick came on 27 minutes, tucking home at the far post from Baraing's center and two minutes later, Piseth followed up to score after Kakada's shot was stopped but not held by the keeper. Chhaya sent a 25-yard effort into the net on 34 minutes as he finally found his range, Piphop made the keeper pay for a poor kick-out with a decisive finish three minutes later, and Noeut slid in his fourth from Chhaya's pass five minutes before the break. Crown led 12-0 at the interval. Ampoor Wan had not managed a shot for the whole first-half.

Svang Samnang came on in goal and Kung Rafat moved to central defence before the second-half got underway. Three minutes in and Piseth had a simple header from a yard for his hat-trick from Piphop's corner. Two minutes later and Noeut fired in after Baraing's corner fell at his feet, and then chested down Piphop's cross to score again. Just after the hour, Kakada was hauled down and stepped up to tuck the penalty inside the post with great confidence despite a pool of water on the penalty spot. Five minutes on and Noeut made the keeper pay for another weak kick out, lashing the ball past him. Baraing ventured upfield soon after and unleashed a 20-yard effort into the roof of the net with devastating effect. On 77 minutes the same player cut inside two defenders and slotted his shot through the eye of a needle inside the near post for his second. Both Chhaya and Kakada had struck the woodwork before another poor clearance fell to Piseth and he confidently despatched the ball for Crown's 20th goal nine minutes from time. Exactly a minute later and Piphop executed a neat finish from Baraing's pass, with Chhaya then rounding off Noeut's run with five minutes to go. Substitute San David made it 23 without reply, or even a shot, when his quick feet took him past three defenders and he poked the ball under the keeper for a great way to finish the rout, a minute form the final whistle. A job well done.
PPCFC U-15s v KAWan: Rafat, Chanmony, Baraing, Sovannaroth (S Samnang 46), Saphy, Chanchav, Chhaya, Kakada (S David 75), Piphop, Piseth, Noeut. Sub not used: Ronaldo. MOTM: Piphop - 4 goals, 4 assists, non-stop running. Goals: Noeut 7 (9, 21, 27, 40, 50, 52, 67), Piphop 4 (14, 23, 37, 82), Piseth 4 (22, 29, 48, 81), Chhaya 3 (27, 34, 85), Kakada 2 (5, 62pen), Baraing 2 (69, 77), S David (89).
Sin Kakada taking a penalty in a puddle - he scored

The plucky Komar Ampor Wan team, thrashed 23-0 by PPCFC U-15s

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Singapore success

The Cambodia U-23s v Singapore. Back Row: Yaty, Sovan, Soksana, Sokngon, Samoeun, Rithy. Front: Saray, Pancharong, Sothearath, Suhana, Chhoeun - click to enlarge, pic courtesy of B P Chua/aXrosstheline.com
The Cambodian U-23s are in Singapore for a couple of friendly matches, as part of the final leg of their preparation for the SEA Games next month. Last night they played what was called a Singapore U-23 B team and will be cock-a-hoop that they came away with a 1-0 success, courtesy of a Chan Vathanaka goal on 72 minutes. A result they wouldn't have expected but will be very happy with. Any result away from home in international competition is never easy to come by for a country like Cambodia. Especially playing on the all-weather surface at Jalan Besar against a team well-versed in the conditions. We can safely assume that Singapore will have got a rocket from their coach in the dressing room after the match. Phnom Penh Crown's Sou Yaty and Sos Suhana both started the game in what looked like Lee Tae-Hoon's favoured starting eleven. There's a view held by Lee and other coaches that wunderkind Vathanaka cannot last ninety minutes, which is why he is used as a game-changing substitute by club and country. It worked again last night. Though, how the heck a 19-year-old professional footballer cannot last 90 minutes is beyond me. Expect the same tactic in the SEA Games. Lee's comments after their success: “We have never played on artificial pitch before, and we had also played five games in 15 days before this. There is little recovery time and the players are tired. But every time we win, we’re very happy!" Obviously the happy moments are few and far between under Lee.

The second friendly is on Sunday night on a different pitch and apparently, has been deemed a full A-list FIFA-recognised international. Which is obviously bonkers. The Cambodian squad is clearly their U-23s with Tieng Tiny sitting on the bench as their only 'official' over-age player. The Singapore team is said to be their U-23 A team, ie. the one that will play in the SEA Games. Those two facts alone would negate that the match is a senior international - but whatever, the result will count as far as FIFA-ranking points are concerned. Though perhaps the biggest surprise is the return to the national team fold by Crown's mercurial midfield playmaker, Bin Thierry, who announced the following on Facebook on Saturday morning: "I have been asked to return to the Cambodia national team, and have agreed. I will rejoin the national team in Singapore today." Short and sharp and to the point, Thierry flew out mid-day and met his teammates for a training session on Saturday night after, just twelve days ago, announcing his retirement from international football for personal reasons, which he never divulged. The uproar by the Cambodian footballing public at that news could be heard as far away as Singapore, so at least the clamour for his return will die down.

Crown unveil Bisan's arrival

PPCFC's latest capture, goalscoring striker George Bisan
Phnom Penh Crown coach Sam Schweingruber today announced his latest acquisition ahead of the new season, by unveiling George Bisan as the club's latest foreign signing. Sam had this to say; "George had an outstanding goal-scoring record for the past 2 years and if he'd played more often would have won the Golden Boot award last season. Initially we were not looking at foreign players in Cambodia but when George asked to train to stay fit, he impressed us with superb work-rate, strong abilities to go past defenders with pace and ability to score at important moments! We believe George has the potential to be better than what Cambodia has seen of him so far and we look forward to working with him to realize our and his dream of success." George has spent the last two seasons with Boeung Ket after arriving in Cambodia in February 2012. After a successful 1-month trial, he was signed by the Rubbermen and was immediately loaned out to Chhlam Samuth for the 2012 season, where he top scored with 14 goals, despite their relegation. Last season he returned to his host club and netted 18 goals to finish a close second to the Golden Boot winner, Khuon Laboravy. C-League runners-up Boeung Ket used him sparingly at times and he was not included in their AFC Presidents Cup squad, so it was a frustrating season for the striker. With his Boeung Ket contract ended, he's moved to Crown and commented; "I'm very happy to join PPCFC, more than ever before, as they treat everyone equally as part of one team and that is what football should be about. I'm really looking forward to the new season with my new teammates." The well-built striker began life in Kaduna City in Nigeria on 30 January 1992, one of three children and at age four moved with his family to the Nigerian capital Abuja. He attended the Federal Service & Technical College in Kafanchan and played for the Waco Boys Academy in Abuja city for seven years, becoming State League champions when he was 14. Most of the time he played as an attacking midfielder. He joined Maracana FC in the State League for just under a year, but found himself on the bench because of his age and so jumped at the opportunity to come to Cambodia, where he has already proved that his power and pace frightens defences, with 32 goals in just two seasons.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Top role model

Aleksandar Duric with the PPCFC Academy
Aleksandar Đurić, probably the best role model any young footballer could wish to emulate, spent time talking to the Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters on Friday morning, as well as taking a coaching stint with the attacking players and giving the boys tips on improving their core body strength. He also dispensed lots of advice on why he is still at the top of his game - over 50 caps for Singapore and still playing in the S-League at the age of 43 years old. His is a remarkable story - he even rowed for Bosnia in the 1992 Olympics - and the Academy boys will benefit from his visit. Đurić was in town at the invitation of NagaWorld and spent time with the Cambodia U-19 squad and Naga Corp.
Giving the youngsters a run for their money, with Bouy Dary behind

Most of the Academy youngsters simply couldn't keep up with him

PPCFC head coach Sam Schweingruber meets Aleksandar Duric

Chupe makes his mark

PPCFC v AEU: Back row, LtoR: Mariano, Bisan, Guerrero, Soksela, Obadin, Thierry. Front Row: Sarak, Dara, Keo, Ndougou, Chupe - click to enlarge
Coach Sam Schweingruber and his Phnom Penh Crown players returned from their Chinese adventures yesterday afternoon and eleven of the team were given this morning off, as the remainder of the squad took on Asia Euro University in a practice match at RSN Stadium. Included in the starting line-up, Schweingruber had a first look at two of the Guam-based players, Ian Mariano and Scott Leon Guerrero, with a third, Marcus Lopez sidelined with a knee injury, as well as another new face, Francisco Salvador Ela, better know as Chupe. The striker who spent 13 years in the third tier of Spanish football after a spell at Real Madrid, was soon in action, sending a speculative first time shot across the face of goal. On 20 minutes he registered his first shot on target and first goal after receiving a pass from Arsene Ndougou before unleashing a dipping drive from just inside the edge of the box. Not a bad way to start a trial with an new club. Eight minutes later he should've really netted a second but he took took long to get his strike away after rounding the keeper and a defender, but his effort was blocked. On the half hour Guerrero looked set to score but his close range header from  Bin Thierry's free-kick went straight to the keeper. On the stroke of half-time, AEU fired wide of an open goal to show they wouldn't succumb quietly. Six minutes after the break, Mariano was cursing his luck when he manged to hit the base of the post twice in less than thirty seconds. His first was from a Chupe center and he immediately latched onto a back-pass but found his route to goal blocked by the woodwork. George Bisan went on a trademark run past three players only to send his shot fizzing wide. Thierry did likewise soon after. After a flurry of substitutions by Crown, an error of judgement by Ndougou allowed AEU a chance which they grabbed with a flourish to draw level on 74 minutes. The last word went to Chupe four minutes later when he anticipated a poor back header, rounded the keeper and tucked in the match-winner to seal a satisfactory, if unconvincing, 2-1 Crown success. Immediately following the game, Crown released Ndougou and Kyle King from their trial with the club, thanking them for their efforts over the past few weeks.
PPCFC v AEU: Soksela, Dara (Phearun 60), Keo (Boran 62), Sarak (Titchhy 78), Obadin, Thierry (Pisa 62), Bisan (Tola 62), Mariano (Morslim 78), Guerrero (King 60), Ndougou, Chupe. Subs not used: Ary. Booking: Obadin. MOTM: Chupe - 2 goals and hard-working. Goals: Chupe (20, 78).
Francisco Salvador Elá, better known as Chupe scored twice in his first match

Marcus Lopez (left), sat out the game with an injury, with Scott Leon Guerrero (middle) and Ian Mariano

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Guam trio to test

Ian Mariano in action during Tuesday's international match - pic by Jill Espiritu
They came, they conquered and now they are staying. Well, three of the successful Guam national squad, who comfortably beat Cambodia 2-0 on Tuesday, are remaining in-country and will begin a 10-day trial with Phnom Penh Crown, ahead of the upcoming new season. Crown coach Sam Schweingruber was on a FIFA Instructor's course with Guam's coach Gary White recently and the tie-up has been extended with three of Guam's regulars testing themselves over the next few days, to see if there's a mutual attraction, by the club and whether the players fancy their chances in the Kingdom of Wonder. Two of the players took part in Tuesday's game, Ian Mariano (age 23) started the match and Scott Leon Guerrero (23) came on as a second-half substitute. The third member of the trio, striker Marcus Lopez (21) was delayed by family matters and arrived a couple of hours after the game, but is just as keen to show his worth during the try out. Lopez is the newest addition to the Guam national team, making his debut in 2012 though he's already scored three goals in two matches against Macau. Mariano, who plays in midfield or as a striker and Guerrero, usually a defender, have been regulars in the Guam line-up since their debuts in 2007. All three were born in Guam, an island of less than 200,000 people lying in the South Pacific, they've all played locally in the Guam Budweiser League as well as spending time in the United States playing college football and studying. Earlier this year both Mariano and Lopez tried their luck in the new Philippines professional league and were regulars with Pachanga Diliman. Over the past two months Crown have been trying out a number of new faces to complement their experienced defender Odion Obadin amongst their foreign contingent for the forthcoming season. Tomorrow morning they play their 13th pre-season practice match - against AEU at RSN Stadium, KO 8am - as they continue their preparation, with most of the squad returning today after a week away in southern China.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

No official record

Guam pictured before yesterday's kick-off. Cambodia didn't bother. Pic by Jill Espiritu
Cambodia played an international friendly match yesterday against Guam. So you'd expect to see a picture of the Cambodian line-up just before kick-off. Every team has a picture taken don't they? Especially for an international match. Not Cambodia. The photographers took so long to snap the Guam team that Cambodia gave up waiting and ran onto the pitch ready for the kick-off. The officials didn't bat an eyelid and so there is no official team photo for the game. It's not a game changer by any stretch of the imagination, but it points to a general malaise that is afflicting our football at the moment. Guam came to Phnom Penh expecting the friendly international to be an official FIFA-sanctioned match, as was their game in Laos a few days before. They were looking for it to reflect positively on their FIFA ranking, which is 27 places higher than Cambodia's by the way. Just before they went home they finally received confirmation that the game was billed as an A-match, so they'll be happy as larry. And they take home a 2-0 victory to boot and looked the better of the two sides by a country mile. In Ryan Guy, they have a striker that Cambodia would die for. He never stopped running, challenging, won every ball in the air, and showed why he plays pro football in the USA's Major League Soccer.

For Cambodia, many of the fans had come to see Chhunly Pagenburg, the 27-year old FSV Frankfurt striker who plies his trade in Bundesliga 2 this season. He had made the considerable effort to fly over for this game, the second time in as many months, and came even though he was nursing a slight knock, only to be told by Lee Tae-Hoon that the coach would start with his U-23 line-up. That by the way, didn't even include a recognised striker. How would you feel? Chhunly got on the pitch just before the hour, and even though he was pushed out wide on the left, he showed more than enough with some deft footwork, that he will be a big asset to the national team in next year's international matches. He will obviously need some bedding in with the rest of the squad, but if he's fit and raring to give it a go, he must be selected.
Chhunly Pagenburg makes his national team debut, as a 2nd half substitute - pic by Jill Espiritu

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Crown claim 3rd

PPCFC v Changwon, back row, LtoR: Thierry, Hutchinson, Pheng, King, Srin, Ary. Front: Da, Sosela, Sothy, Borey, Sokumpheak (capt) - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown rounded off their first visit to China with third place in the 2nd Nanning Asean International Tournament with a 1-0 victory in the 3rd place play-off against the South Korean team, Changwon Mechanical Technical High School in Nanning this afternoon. Kyle King turned out to be the match-winner with the only goal of the game on 83 minutes, which came with a stroke of good luck. As Crown pressed, the opposing keeper's clearance struck King and bounced over his head into the empty net. Against a young and well disciplined team, Crown edged it, with lots of possession but created few chances in the first half. After the break, Bin Thierry whipped in a great free-kick, only for it to be disallowed as it was an indirect kick and Thierry had misread the referee's instructions. From a corner Khim Borey's header was goal-bound until it hit the back of King's head and was cleared. And then with seven minutes to go. King's winner sealed it for Crown, who picked up a trophy and a cheque for $500. The competition's winners were Guangxi Nanning Runhua, who beat Crown 3-0 in the group stage, with a 2-0 win over their city rivals Guangxi Huanglongju FC. The PPCFC team return home on Thursday and have booked a practice match with AEU on Friday morning. The China trip gave Sam Schweingruber's squad some good competitive playing time as they prepare for the forthcoming season.
PPCFC v Changwon; Ary, Da, Pheng, Srin, Hutchinson (Sarak 80), Thierry, Sothy (Sophat 84), Sosela (Keo 85), Sokumpheak, Borey, King. Subs not used: Boris, Sokheng, Makara. Goal: King (83).
After-match celebration team photo for players, coaches and fans

Guam conquer

Ryan Guy (13) who was outstanding, skates past Touch Pancharong
If you begin an international match at home without a recognised striker on the pitch, then the message you send out to the opposition, your own players and your fans is the wrong one in my opinion. This ultra-cautious approach by Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon in today's friendly with Guam was doomed from the start against hard-working and well-drilled rather than dynamic opponents. With most of Guam's line-up playing professionally in the US or Philippines, they were more upbeat in the opening stages as Cambodia began on the back foot and stayed there, offering little except the occasional quick break. Sou Yaty was in the action early on, keeping out a long-range effort from Ryan Guy and then pulling off a superb one-handed stop after Jason Cunliffe, the Guam skipper, had strode past three defenders. It wasn't long before Guam made Cambodia pay for their lack of purpose as Yaty came out to punch the ball from the head of Travis Nicklaw, only for his brother Shawn to hook the ball goalwards and for Guy to add the finishing touch with a looping header. Eighteen minutes on the clock and it looked like the home fans were in for a long afternoon. Cambodia perked up a bit with Chhin Chhoeun leaning back and sending a far post effort well over the top before Tum Saray broke free but shot weakly at Doug Herrick in the Guam goal. Moments later Guam couldn't believe their eyes when Ros Samoeun climbed all over John Matkin in the box, but local referee Thong Chankethya was having none of it and waved away their appeals. Cambodia were caught offside far too frequently and in the final seconds of the first-half a Chhoeun cross found a late-arriving Khek Khemrin at the far post but he couldn't connect and the home fans grumbled as the teams left the field.

A minute into the restart and a wayward Chhoeun cross was tipped over by Herrick but Guam remained on top, with Guy showing Cambodia what they were missing without a striker on the pitch, he was easily man of the match, and Cunliffe striding around midfield like a colossus. Travis Nicklaw let loose with a 30-yard free-kick which Yaty held onto low down. With his formation ineffective, Lee threw on Chhunly Pagenburg just before the hour and soon after, a low drive by Chhoeun was pushed out by Herrick and the German striker was crowded out of getting a shot on goal. But it proved too little too late on 68 minutes as Guam deservedly extended their lead. Cunliffe sped past his marker on the left and sent an inviting ball across the face of goal for Guy, only for defender Sok Sovan to stick his leg out and divert it past a helpless Yaty for an own goal. That was effectively that as Guam closed the game out, with only a Chan Vathanaka half-volley which went wide, causing any ripple of interest. A flurry of bookings and substitutions followed and in time added on, Chhoeun sent an effort wide when well-placed, which summed up Cambodia's dismal afternoon. Guam had proved too strong a nut to crack but to play for nearly an hour without a striker speaks volumes of the South Korean's approach as he goes into a SEA Games competition next month, where he knows all of his opponents will be as good or better than Guam. I fear the worst. You should too.
Cambodia v Guam: Yaty, Pancharong, Samoeun, Sovan (Tiny 76), Rithy (Piseth 76), Khemrin (Sothearath 46), Soksana, Suhana (Vathanaka 67), PM Udom, Chhoeun, Saray (Pagenburg 57). Subs not used: Sophea, S Udom, Vannak, Dara, Sokngon, Pheng.

Guam come knocking

Guam get a feel for the Olympic Stadium pitch yesterday afternoon
An intriguing match-up this afternoon will take place at Olympic Stadium at 4pm with the visit of Guam against what is essentially the Cambodia U-23 national team with the addition of Chhunly Pagenburg, all the way from Germany, and NagaCorp's Tieng Tiny. Guam are fresh off the back of a 1-1 draw with Laos, where they found the refereeing hard to come to grips with but finally got their rewards with a last-minute penalty equalizer. Despite having a population of less than 200,000, this island in the Pacific Ocean, which is an American territory, lie 27 places above Cambodia in the FIFA ranking table. Do tables lie? We shall see for ourselves this afternoon as Guam, with players like A DeLaGarza in their line-up - he won the Major Soccer League Cup with LA Galaxy and David Beckham last year - will bring a team of tall, strong and quick, mostly American-born players to pit themselves against a Cambodian team which is fresh off their BIDC Cup adventures and will be heading to Singapore soon for two more games before they take part in next month's SEA Games in Myanmar. Phnom Penh Crown's Sou Yaty and Sos Suhana will be in the line-up but one face that is missing, will be Bin Thierry, over in China with the Crown senior squad after his recent retirement from national team football. Chhunly Pagenburg has made the trip to Phnom Penh for the second time in as many months from his club in the second tier of German football, FSV Frankfurt, and will be making his national team debut. In addition to DeLaGarza, Guam's English coach Gary White has brought over another half a dozen players who ply their trade in the States, three who are playing professionally in the Philippines and a few more who are still based at home. Earlier this year they lost to Myanmar and India in the AFC Challenge Cup but gained a noteworthy scalp when beating Chinese Taipei 3-0. It's the type of international match that the Cambodian football fans want to see a lot more of. They have been starved of these games for far too long. The senior team last played in the Challenge Cup in March, losing heavily, and I mean heavily, to Turkmenistan and Philippines.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bad idea

It turned out to be a really bad idea for about 1,000 football fans and myself to go to the Olympic Stadium this afternoon. We watched what can only be described as a dire match, in which the Cambodian U-23 national team were very nearly embarrassed by a third-tier Vietnamese club side, Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh. With more composure, the Saigon-based team could've won the game in the second half when they were up against what would be considered the stronger of two U-23 line-ups. The match ended 1-1 but I went home deflated with what I had just witnessed. Let's pray that the match against Guam on Tuesday has much more to offer, but I have my doubts. Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon began the game with his weaker starting XI and tried two experiments that failed miserably. Srey Udom is not and never will be a left-back and was constantly exposed while Ke Vannak is a much more accomplished central defender than he is attacker. Even so, a lofted free-kick from Prak Mony Udom on eight minutes found the back of the net with the beefy Vietnamese keeper unable to move his feet quick enough. Referee Tuy Vichheka gave the visitors a helping hand with a penalty award on twenty minutes which only he saw, and which they converted. Vannak had an effort blocked on the line and that was about it for the opening half. All change by Cambodia at the break but after an initial flourish, the team that did well in the BIDC Cup looked a pale shadow of themselves. The crap pitch didn't help anyone but it was TPHCM that ended the game the stronger of the two teams and a finger-tip onto the bar from Sou Yaty saved the day. For the Guam match, which should be a full international friendly, Lee has added Chhunly Pagenburg from FSV Frankfurt in Germany to his squad alongwith experienced defender Tieng Tiny from NagaCorp. Kouch Sokumpheak couldn't play as he's in China. Why Khuon Laboravy wasn't picked, no-one knows. Chhunly sat out the game today with a slight knock but should be fit for Tuesday.
Cambodia 1st half: Sophea, Sothearoth, S Udom, Tiny, Piseth, Sothearath, Dara, PM Udom, Chhoeun, Vannak, Pheng.
Cambodia 2nd half: Yaty, Pancharong, Samoeun, Sovan, Rithy, Khemrin, Soksana, Vathanaka, Saray, Suhana, Sokngon (P M Udom (Chhoeun)).

Crown crush Army

PPCFC U-17 starting XI. Back row, LtoR: Chanpolin, Sovann, Chanvuthy, Sodavid, Sakrovy, Titchhy (capt). Front: Chansopheak, Nuron, Muslim, Phearath, Ponvuthy.

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy U-17 team were determined to wipe away the memory of a defeat to arch rivals Svay Rieng in their previous game, by meting out another footballing lesson, this time to a hapless Army Youth Hope team, that did well to keep the final score below double figures. With the match played on a partly-waterlogged Dept of Sport & PE pitch in Tuol Kork, Army failed to register a shot on target for the whole ninety minutes and had to endure wave upon wave of Crown attacks in both halves. They must've longed for the final whistle, which finally came in darkness as the match kicked off later than arranged. With Army on the back foot from the beginning, Mat Nuron fired into the side netting and then had a long range effort tipped around the post. Captain Sraing Titchhy punished the cross-bar with a 25-yard free-kick just moments before Ken Chansopheak gave Crown the lead on 21 minutes. It was a goal made by one full-back and scored by the other. Long Phearath danced his way around three defenders and crossed for Chansopheak to arrive at just the right time and steer the ball home. Six minutes later and Yeu Muslim nipped in with a clinical finish after a defender had failed to clear Mat Sakrovy's header for number two. Five minutes before half-time, another Phearath break on the left flank gave Pov Ponvuthy Crown's third goal after the full-back's cross was headed out to him fifteen yards from goal. A controversial decision by the referee, two minutes later - which he would repeat in the 2nd half - came to nothing as Muslim was hauled down as he raced through, only for a yellow card to be shown, despite it being a last man and clear goalscoring opportunity. The decision was simply wrong and for him to repeat it later in the match, shows that the referee doesn't understand one of the basic laws of the game. There was still time for Ouk Sovann to send his free-kick onto the bar though Nuron was flagged offside as he headed in the rebound.

With Crown camped in the final third of the pitch, there was no let up for the beleaguered Army backline. Their keeper kept out a Nuron drive and then spilled In Sodavid's shot which Muslim tapped home, but the flag was raised again. Three illegal Army tackles in the box went unpunished as Men Piphop fired against the upright before Crown netted again on 68 minutes. Sakrovy showed a lovely touch as he sploshed his way around three players in the waterlogged penalty area and finished with some style from Piphop's pass. On the half-hour Army were down to ten men for a second yellow card after Vat Samnang was pulled to the ground. Nine minutes from time Theang Chhaya chased and crossed for Suon Noeut to finish and less than a minute later, Noeut was brought down as he raced through, only for the referee to get it wrong again, with just a yellow card. At least there was some justice as Titchhy took aim and slotted the free-kick past the wall and into the far corner. Samnang was giving the Army the runaround and avoided two tackles before setting up Noeut for his second five minutes from time. Two minutes from the end, and in deepening gloom, Samnang took the ball around the last defender and made no mistake to give Crown a well-deserved 8-0 victory.

PPCFC U-17s v Army: Chanvuthy, Chansopheak, Phearath, Sovann, Titchhy, Chanpolin, Sodavid, Sakrovy (T Chhaya 78), Nuron (V Samnang 69), Ponvuthy (Piphop 60), Muslim (Noeut 59). Subs not used: Soksela, Chanchav, K Chhaya, Senteang. MOTM: Titchhy - rock solid in defence and dangerous in offense. Goals: Chansopheak (21), Muslim (27), Ponvuthy (39), Sakrovy (68), Noeut (81, 85), Titchhy (83), Samnang (88).
Goalscorer Yeu Muslim takes a half-time breather

Listening intently to the coach is Ken Chansopheak and Pov Ponvuthy (9)

Crown rout students

PPCFC v Laos. Back row, LtoR: Thierry, Srin, Boris, King, Pheng, Sarak. Front: Da, Sokheng, Ary, Borey, Sokumpheak (capt)

In an international club competition you never quite know what team you will be up against. On Thursday, Phnom Penh Crown went in blind and met the best team in the competition - the 2nd Nanning Asean International Tournament - and found the going a bit tough, losing 3-0 to the All China amateur champions, Guangxi Nanning Runhua FC. For their second match, on Friday, it was a completely different story as their opponents, Laos Youth were, as their name suggests, Laotian students and Crown steamrollered them with an 8-0 victory. In coach Sam Schweingruber's words; "They were stubborn for the first twenty minutes but we pushed them hard, were better in all areas and won easily. In the 2nd half we lacked concentration and despite much possession and chances, we didn't do as well as I would expect."

English-born trialist Kyle King was in the goals with four to his name but it was Khim Borey who started the rout with two goals in three minutes, his first a simple header from Touch Sokheng's corner and his second, a neat finish from a Kouch Sokumpheak pass. They arrived on 23 and 25 minutes. On the half hour King netted his first after Bin Thierry put Borey through and his dribble set up the striker. Six minutes King he got his second with a composed finish. Hong Pheng got his head to the ball to score after King's header rebounded back off the cross-bar with five minutes of the first half remaining. In time added on, King latched onto a deep ball, rounded the goalkeeper and claimed a first-half hat-trick. After the half-time break, Crown continued to dominate the game but didn't do themselves justice until two more goals in the last eight minutes. Pheng got his second after some nice combination build-up play and the last word went to King, with a minute to go, as he nodded in a headed pass from Sokumpheak. Maybe not the tough workout that Schweingruber would've been hoping for, but with a few players carrying knocks, a morale-boosting big win doesn't hurt anyone, except the opposition.
PPCFC v Laos Youth: Ary, Da (Makara 75), Sarak, Srin, Boris (Keo 40), Sokheng (Sothy 80), Thierry, Pheng, Sokumpheak, Borey (Sophat 75), King. Goals: King (30, 36, 46, 89), Borey (23, 25), Pheng (40, 82).
The Laos Youth team, thrashed 8-0 yesterday

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Opening setback

PPCFC v Nanning Runhua. Back Row LtoR: Borey (capt), Pheng, Hutchinson, Boris, Srin, Ary. Front Row: Da, Sosela, Sokumpheak, Sokheng, Sothy
Phnom Penh Crown's adventures in China, in the city of Nanning in southern Guangxi province, didn't exactly get off to an auspicious start yesterday, when they were beaten 3-0 by Guangxi Nanning Runhua FC in the first match of the, wait for it, Huanglongju Real Estate Cup - The 2nd Nanning Asean International Football Invitation Tournament, featuring teams from Vietnam, Laos, Korea, China and of course Cambodia. It just so happens that the team facing Crown were the 2012 All China Champions League winners, which means they are the top amateur team in a country of 1.35 billion inhabitants. Obviously not a team to be taken lightly. Sam Schweingruber's men have a chance to redeem themselves when they meet Laos Youth this afternoon. The Crown head coach had this to say about yesterday's defeat. "They knew the hard and bouncy pitch, they were physically very strong and a good side. For the first 25 minutes we looked the better side before we fell behind to their only chance of the half. Thierry came on after half an hour and was very unlucky with a couple of chances before the break. Ten minutes into the 2nd half and we weren't well organized at a corner and conceded another. Five minutes later we didn't clear the danger when we had the chance and they made us pay again. Thierry and Borey went close to scoring but it was not to be. End result, we lost 3-nil, lots of things to learn especially not to give the opponents gift goals. Looks likely that Makara, Sosela and Hutchinson will not play today and two others are questionable."
PPCFC v Nanning: Ary, Da, Pheng (Sarak 80), Srin, Boris, Hutchinson (Kyle 46), Sothy (Thierry 30), Sokheng, Sosela (Keo 80), Borey, Sokumpheak (Sophat 80).
Guangxi Nanning Runhua FC, all Chinese champions in 2012, beat PPCFC 3-0

The PPCFC squad arrive at the stadium for morning training

The PPCFC squad before they take off for China, at Phnom Penh airport

FBT clothe Crown

The 1st draft of PPCFC's new FBT kit, though the final version will be different
Phnom Penh Crown are expecting delivery of their new playing kit sometime next month after sealing a deal recently with FBT, the fastest growing sports brand in Southeast Asia, and known for producing high-quality products at affordable prices. The Thai company began life in 1952 and today they generate an annual turnover of $50 million, with 3,000 employees in two factories where every day 20,000 pieces of clothing, up to 15,000 footballs and 10,000 pairs of shoes are produced. They sponsor the playing kits for the national football teams of Cambodia, Laos and Sri Lanka, as well as NagaCorp and Boeung Ket domestically here in Cambodia, not to mention kitting out the country's SEA Games competitors. Crown will benefit from the link-up with new playing and training kits as well as tracksuits and other necessary items.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Off to China

The Phnom Penh Crown first team squad head for Nanning in Southern China this afternoon, invited to take part in the 2nd Nanning Asean International Football Invitation Tournament, aka the Huanglongju Real Estate Cup, alongside teams from Vietnam, Laos, Korea and of course, China. China's stringent immigration rules have left Crown's African players back home, with coach Sam Schweingruber taking a 16-man squad for the competition. Their first match is on Friday (15 Nov) against Guangxi Nanning Runhua FC at 3pm at the 60,000 seater Nanning Stadium. They then play against Laos Youth FC the next day, Saturday (16 Nov) also at 3pm. Those 3 teams are in Group B. The teams in Group A are Lang Son City (Vietnam), Changwon (Korea) and Guangxi Huanglongju FC (China). On Tuesday (19 Nov) all the teams will play-off to decide where they finish, from sixth place to champions. The team will fly back to Phnom Penh on 21 November and are likely to play Western University in a practice match the following morning, as they continue their pre-season preparation build-up. Crown's season is due to begin in mid-December with the Hun Sen Cup and the C-League is slated to start in the second week of January. The 16-man squad for the Nanning tournament is: Ary, Pheng, Boris, Keo, Hutchinson, Sarak, Da, Srin, Sokheng, Thierry, Sothy, Sokumpheak, Borey, Makara, Sosela, King.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thierry shocker

Bin Thierry has announced that he is retiring from international football
Breaking news...Bin Thierry, Phnom Penh Crown's playmaking midfielder who starred for Cambodia U-23s in the recent BIDC Cup matches, has stunned the Khmer football fraternity by announcing his retirement from international football with immediate effect. No reasons were given, just that it was a painful and difficult decision for the French-born player, who would not say any more on the background to his decision. This was his statement:
"Anyone that knows me will understand that one of the proudest moments of my life was pulling on the Cambodian national football team jersey to represent the country of my parents birth. Playing for the Khmer-Europe team and being welcomed to Cambodian football by Phnom Penh Crown FC was the start of a fantastic journey for me. It made the possibility of playing for Cambodia a reality and I was very happy to be selected for the Cambodia U-23 SEA Games squad. To then play against Malaysia, Laos and Thailand in the BIDC Cup was a dream come true. My dad even came over from France to watch my matches. The support and encouragement of the Cambodian football fans has made the experience even better than I could've ever hoped for. For these reasons, it is with considerable regret that I am announcing my retirement from the Cambodian national football team, with immediate effect due to personal reasons, which I will not divulge at this time. This has been a very painful and difficult decision for me to make, but with the support of the people closest to me, I believe it is one I have to make. LONG LIVE CAMBODIA!"
The online reaction to the news has been one of incredulity, after the player lived up to his messiah-like reputation in last week's matches in the BIDC Cup. Cambodia were using the competition as a warm-up for their trip to Myanmar in the SEA Games at the start of next month. Now, they will have to do without arguably their most influential player. Meanwhile, Thierry will join his Crown colleagues for a week-long tournament in Nanning, southern China from Thursday of this week.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Double-header victories

PPCFC v Radio 104.70. 1st half, back row, LtoR: Sosela, Da, Boris, Srin, Pheng, Ary. Front Row: Sothy, Boran, Sokheng, Borey, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge
Phnom Penh Crown had a double-header weekend with two practice matches as they step up their pre-season preparations. In a few days they will be off to China for a week to take part in a club tournament. In the meantime, their destination on Saturday was Kompong Chhnang, nearly two hours north and a game against a local team, Radio 104.70 Kompong Chhnang. The match was played on the provincial pitch in the center of the town and from the kick-off it was a one-sided affair with Crown dominating from start to finish. The city slickers ran out 5-0 winners at the final whistle but it should've been many more. The playing surface was tricky to say the least, with the ball bobbling and bouncing in all directions, making controlled shooting a tough task. In fact, the locals didn't manage a shot on or off target in the ninety minutes. Coach Sam Schweingruber started with an all-Khmer team from the outset and they had to wait until the 15th minute for their first goal. Kouch Sokumpheak had already fired against an upright and shots had rained in from all directions, before Neou Sosela shimmied past two players and set up Khim Borey for a well-directed strike from a dozen yards out. Two minutes later and Borey was at it again, taking a pass from Hong Pheng, bypassing two defenders and firing a shot in off the far post. On 20 minutes Crown made it three as Sokumpheak and Sosela combined on the right and the latter's low shot was tapped in at the far post by Long Boran. The visitors, making their second trip to the provincial city in the past twelve months, held onto the ball and created more opportunities but failed to take them. Schweingruber changed the whole team at the break, except for Yok Ary in goal, who was a spectator throughout. Eight minutes in and Um Tola got his name on the scoresheet after Kyle King harried a defender and the keeper to a long ball forward and Tola reaped the benefits of the loose ball. Arsene Ndougou struck a vicious 30-yard effort that sailed inches wide of the top corner, George Bisan, Chea Dara and King all went close before Bisan walloped in goal number five. Cutting inside two defenders he let rip with a 20-yard effort that nestled in the far corner on 74 minutes. Bun Keo and Ndougou should've done better with two more chances as Crown saw out the game in total command. An easy game for Crown but an opportunity to make new friends, watched by a sizeable crowd and for most of the squad to get 45 minutes under their belts. Bin Thierry, back from three games with the Cambodia U-23s, made a late appearance as a substitute.
PPCFC v Radio 104.70: Ary, Da (Dara 46 (Morslim 77)), Pheng (Keo 46), Srin (Obadin 46), Boris (Sarak 46), Sokheng (Hutchinson 46), Sothy (Tola 46), Sokumpheak (Pisa 46 (Thierry 77)), Borey (Ndougou 46), Boran (King 46), Sosela (Bisan 46). All subs used. Bookings: None. MOTM: Sokumpheak - worked hard. Goals: Borey 2 (15, 17), Boran (20), Tola (52), Bisan (74).
2nd half v Radio 104.70, back row, LtoR: Ndougou, King, Hutchinson, Obadin, Bisan, Ary. Front: Keo, Sarak, Pisa, Dara, Tola - click to enlarge
Sunday morning was the second game of the weekend with Asia Euro University providing the opposition in what turned out to be another satisfactory pre-season practice game, this time played at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork. Crown opened the scoring on 19 minutes as Liam Hutchinson sent Neou Sosela scampering down the right wing and his low cross was volleyed in with ease by Touch Sokheng from six yards out. Khim Borey sent a half-volley inches wide of the target before AEU levelled on 32 minutes with an superbly arrowed free-kick from 25 yards that went straight into the top corner. Unstoppable. Kouch Sokumpheak's effort was kept out by the AEU keeper Mak Theara, who then missed a Sokumpheak cross to Sokheng who headed wide of an open goal. Four minutes before the half-time break, Sokumpheak took Borey's pass around the keeper and set up Ouk Sothy who couldn't miss from five yards out to send Crown 2-1 ahead at the interval. Changes galore affected the game's flow as is often the case in these type of matches, and it wasn't until the 70th minute that Khim Borey's aim was true as he slotted into the corner of the net from Hong Pheng's pass. With ten minutes left, Sokumpheak scored from the penalty spot after Arsene Ndougou had been needlessly tripped. Four minutes later, George Bisan made the keeper pay for a sloppy kick out and smacked in number five for Crown. There was still time for Bin Thierry to have a free-kick tipped over the cross-bar and for Theara to race out of his goal and take the ball off Ndougou's toe as he looked destined to score. Job done, a 5-1 win and another game in the locker before the club head to China next Thursday.
PPCFC v AEU: Ary, Da (Titchhy 83), Pheng (Dara 83), Srin (Boran 69), Boris (Sarak 83), Hutchinson (Obadin 56), Sothy (Bisan 74), Sokheng (Ndougou 74), Sokumpheak (Tola 80), Borey (Thierry 74), Sosela (King 64). Subs not used: Soksela, Keo, Pisa, Morslim, Baraing. Bookings: None. MOTM: Sokumpheak - unselfish play. Goals: Sokheng (19), Sothy (41), Borey (70), Sokumpheak pen (80), Bisan (84).
PPCFC v AEU back row, LtoR: Da, Boris, Pheng, Hutchinson, Srin, Ary. Front: Borey, Sothy, Sokheng, Sosela, Sokumpheak - click to enlarge

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Worst fears

Just over a month before the SEA Games kick off in Myanmar, Cambodia's worst fears were realised when the draw for the men's football competition was made this week. Drawn in what is regarded as the toughest grouping, Group B, they will face the hosts Myanmar, Indonesia, East Timor and their BIDC Cup victors Thailand for a place in the knock-out stages of a tournament expected to be a highlight of the 27th biannual Games. The draw took place at the Wunna Theikdi Stadium, a new 30,000-seater built in Naypyidaw to host the SEA Games’ track and field events. The football matches in Group A (involving Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Laos and Brunei) will be played at the Zayar Thiri Stadium, a replica of the Wunna Theikdi located a half-hour drive across town in Naypyidaw’s main military area. However, Cambodia's matches in Group B will take place in Yangon, at the Thuwunna Youth Training Centre Stadium.

Indonesia, SEA Games runners-up last time out in a penalty shoot-out with Malaysia, have a couple of prep matches versus Hong Kong sides in the next few days, and drew 0-0 with Timor Leste in a recent friendly. Thailand coach Kiatisak Senamuang announced he was pleased to be in what he felt was the weaker group, as his squad began a training camp in Chiang Mai. Wouldn't it be great to wipe the smile off his face. None of the players who beat Cambodia in the BIDC Cup yesterday will feature in the SEA Games. Myanmar, as the hosts, have set a gold medal as their target after their third place in the last Games two years ago, so lots of pressure for their Korean coach Park Seong-Hwa, whilst Timor Leste included players from at least six different countries in that friendlyin Indonesia under their Japanese coach Norio Tsukitate.

The SEA Games matches for Cambodia:
7 Dec: Myanmar v Cambodia 6.45pm
9 Dec: Cambodia v Indonesia 4pm
12 Dec: Cambodia v Timor Leste 6.45pm
16 Dec: Thailand v Cambodia 6.45pm.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thailand progress

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).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cambodia are through

PPCFC's trio - Thierry, Yaty and Suhana - go through to the semi-finals with Cambodia U-23s - click to enlarge
It was back to the Olympic Stadium this afternoon for round 2 of the Cambodia U-23s build-up to the forthcoming SEA Games, and hoping to do well in the six-team competition they are hosting, the Mekong Region BIDC Cup (aka MRYUIFTBIDCCup2013). At least a draw against Laos would put them in the semi-final so they went into the game knowing exactly what was required. Coach Lee Tae-Hoon went for an even more defensive formation, 4-2-3-1 for this game, recalling Touch Pancharong and Prak Mony Udom, alongside the three Phnom Penh Crown players, Sou Yaty, Bin Thierry and Sos Suhana. In front of another big crowd at the Olympic Stadium, the first half was notable for just three incidents. On six minutes, Yaty was quick to react to a goal-bound attempt and pushed it away from danger. At the other end, on 23 minutes, Phoung Soksana evaded his marker but sent his diving header well wide. Then two yellow cards in two minutes, for two late challenges by the same player, Ketsada Souksavanh, gave Cambodia a numerical advantage to take into the second half. Except that within 18 seconds of the restart, Laos caught the home defence wiping the sleep from their eyes and scored from close range through Khonesavanh Sihavong. From the kick-off, Laos strung seven passes together before tapping in the opening goal. It was far too simple. However, in less than a minute, it was all square as Ros Samoeun made amends for his fluffed clearance moments earlier by speeding down the left flank onto a long ball from Sok Sovan. His cross found Keo Sokngon at the near post who swung a foot, missed the ball and fell over, but had the presence of mind to poke the loose ball over the goal-line.

Despite a man down, Laos pressed and on the hour, poor control by Sovan allowed the fleet-footed Phoutthasay Khochalern to enter the box, leave Sok Rithy for dead and squeeze his shot inside Yaty's near post. It stunned the large audience into momentary silence. Lee Tae-Hoon's response was to send on Sok Pheng, whilst everyone else was screaming for the introduction of Chan Vathanaka. Moments later Sokngon released Soksana through the middle but his touch deserted him and he rolled his shot agonisingly wide, when it looked easier to score. An injury forced Laos to change their keeper, Vathanaka finally entered the fray for an out-of-sorts Soksana and Cambodia finally found the key to unlock the visitors defence. Thierry threaded a inch-perfect pass through the center to Chhin Chhoeun, who kept his composure to clip the ball past the onrushing keeper for the equaliser on 72 minutes. And that was about it as far as goalmouth action for the rest of the game. Neither team were prepared to bust a gut to go for the winner and Laos went out of the competition with a whimper. Meanwhile, Cambodia go through to meet Thailand, who won both of their group matches, in Friday's semi-final. Malaysia will meet Myanmar in the other semi.
Cambodia U-23s v Laos: Yaty, Pancharong, Samoeun, Sovan, Rithy, Thierry (Sothearath 92), Suhana, PM Udom (Pheng 65), Chhoeun, Soksana (Vathanaka 69), Sokngon. Subs not used: Sophea, Khemarin, Sothearoth, Piseth, Saray, Dara. Bookings: Yaty. MOTM: Thierry - rolled up his sleeves, battled hard and superb pass for equaliser. Goals: Sokngon (47), Chhoeun (72).