Sunday, October 31, 2010

Crown back in the groove

Sun Sopanha, one of the PPC players who will return to training after a hectic two months with the national team (pic: Nick Sells)
The players of Phnom Penh Crown step back onto the training ground tomorrow morning, just a little more than two months since they successfully claimed the Metfone C-League championship with a 4-3 play-off win over Preah Khan Reach at the Olympic Stadium. For some of the players there has been no break, as they were involved in the Vietnam-based training camp and then the qualifying matches for the national team's Suzuki Cup attempt. Following the C-League success, both manager Makara Be and coach Apisit Im Amphai parted company with the club and headed for pastures new in Thailand. The club is expected to announce a new management team, along with a number of new faces in playing personnel in the next couple of weeks. Contract negotiations are currently taking place and the club want to have everything on a firm footing before announcing the new set-up. The team's first friendly action will be on 13 November at 3.30pm when they face a touring Khmer Select XI from France at the Olympic Stadium.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Back to school

The successful PUC line-up: LtoR [Back row]; Khim Borey, Bouy Dary, Khuon Laboravy, Sok Rithy, Lorn Sotheara, Rang Borin; [Front row] Phea Vipoup, Lay Raksmey, Sou Yaty, Keo Kosal, Lay Vathanak.
I don't have the full details yet but there's an educational institutions cup competition in Cambodia where some of the country's best C-League players turn out for different university teams, risking injury, etc, during the C-League season. I think it's tied to getting a scholarship to study at a particular university, as well as bringing glory to the campus if the team is successful. However, I don't really think that professional players should be representing their university whilst they are contracted to their clubs and in the middle of the regular season. Or am I just being a killjoy? Anyway, the 2010 National Football Championships involved 24 teams from higher educational institutions, technical colleges and provincial teacher training centers. Pannasastra University of Cambodia (PUC) came out on top after a sequence of six successful games, as follows: Prey Veng Pedagogy Center 17-0, University of Health and Science 1-0, Institute for Business Education 4-2, Norton University 4-0 [during the group stage], Asia Europe University 1-0 [semi final], and Svay Rieng University 4-0 in the final. Now when you look at their line-up, you can see why they won the competition, with no less than a dozen members of the international squad including Khim Borey, Keo Sokngorn, Sou Yaty, Khuon Laboravy and more alongwith others such as national youth coaches Bouy Dary and Ieng Saknida. Quite a formidable line-up and one that virtually guaranteed PUC success this season.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

YouTube agony

YouTube have the highlights from Cambodia's goal-less draw with the Philippines yesterday, as Cambodia fail to progress to the group stages of the AFF Suzuki Cup. On reviewing the video highlights, I reckon there's a real case for a penalty in the 2nd half when the Filipino goalkeeper makes a hash of a challenge as the unnamed Cambodia player races through. Initially I thought it was Nuth Sinoun but it could be Lay Raksmey - difficult to tell on the video. I have a few bones to pick with the Fulham keeper who also got Tieng Tiny booked when he was the one who was flailing arms and elbows. He was later booked for time-wasting.


So close and yet so far, is the story of Cambodia's AFF Suzuki Cup qualification campaign that has just run its course in Vientiane in Laos. After the three matches played by the four teams, Laos, Philippines and Cambodia all finished the qualifiers with five points each but the Laotians (8 goals for-3 goals against) finished first by virtue of scoring one goal more than the Filipinos (7-2). Cambodia finished third on goal difference (4-2) and miss out on the group stage. In early December Laos will face hosts Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia in Group A in Jakarta, while Philippines will meet defending champions Vietnam, Singapore and Myanmar in Group B in Hanoi. Meanwhile, Cambodia will be licking their wounds back in Phnom Penh. Their next action is not until they lock horns with Macau in the AFC Challenge Cup qualification round, home and away on 9 and 16 February 2011. Missing out on the group stages of the Suzuki Cup will be a big blow for new coach, South Korean Lee Tae-Hoon (pictured) and his squad. They spent more than a month together in Vietnam in preparation after the coach finally arrived towards the end of August. In fact it was a similar story for the two teams that did make it through, with both Laos (David Booth) and Philippines (Simon McMenemy) both taking new coaches on board just before this week's qualifiers.
A failure to find the target in phases of play when they were on top against both Laos and especially the Philippines, as well as not scoring enough goals past the whipping boys of the group, Timor Leste, are the obvious reasons why Cambodia are not progressing. Despite a Khim Borey hat-trick in 14 minutes against Timor, they didn't press home their advantage enough in that game, and it has cost them dearly. I will be interested to hear why the coach changed the formation for the final game, moving Borey back into a withdrawn midfield role (even though his nose for a goal had been heightened with his Timor hat-trick) and switching Kuoch Sokumpheak into attack, as the switch didn't work. I was not convinced either by repeated insistence that Tum Saray should be the man to change things from the bench in each of the three games, when more dynamic players were left back in Phnom Penh and not selected to travel.
Speaking to the official competition website after the match ended, Lee Tae-Hoon said; "I know that my players have tried their best and they are developing step by step. We have a number of young players here and we will learn for our weaknesses and try to improve the next time." The coach, who is on a one-year contract, will have ample time to select a squad of his own choosing for the two Challenge Cup qualifiers against Macau in February, though the C-League won't start until after that, so his selected players will only have their pre-season training and maybe the odd Hun Sen Cup game under their belt to sharpen their fitness. The importance of the Macau fixtures for Cambodia's national team in 2011 and beyond cannot be overstated. They are must win matches. Added to that there are World Cup qualifying matches coming up in the middle of the year, which will also determine the future picture of the country's international football programme. Tough challenges ahead for Lee Tae-Hoon and he's got to get it right.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cambodia remain empty-handed

Cambodia skipper Ouk Mic kept the score at 0-0 with a great save at the end of the game
Cambodia needed to beat the Philippines this afternoon to make sure of AFF Suzuki Cup qualification. At the half-time interval, with the game being played in Vientiane, Laos, it was all square at 0-0 though Cambodia shaded the 1st half and hit the woodwork twice. Cambodia have used the flanks to good effect and after Khim Borey was fouled on the bye-line, Sun Sopanha fired one against the join of the upright and cross-bar on 28 minutes. Five minutes later Keo Sokngorn was fouled on the edge of the box and Khuon Laboravy curled a left-foot free-kick goalwards. Phils' keeper Neil Etheridge pulled off a superb diving save, tipping it onto the crossbar and as it dropped Kuoch Sokumpheak dived to head it in, only for Etheridge to recover and catch it. Despite some questionable refereeing decisions and some strong-arm tactics by Philippines (they had 7 players booked), Cambodia are doing well and now need to push on to get that all-important first goal.
In the 2nd half Cambodia again had chances to open the scoring. Sokumpheak volleyed just past the post early on, then he swung his foot but missed connecting with a Laboravy cross on the hour, inside the six-yard box. A minute later both Laboravy and Sokumpheak couldn't reach a Borey cross that skidded across the Filipino goal-line and on 75 minutes it looked like Nuth Sinoun had latched onto a long ball as Etheridge dithered but the striker fluffed it and fell over the keeper, when taking it round him looked the easy option. Both teams tired and the game became stretched, Cambodia's touch deserted them and whilst Philippines were happy to play for the draw, Ouk Mic kept the score at 0-0 with a last-gasp save from Younghusband. So, acutely disappointing for Cambodia, they had the opportunity to progress but failed to find that vital final touch in front of goal. If Timor beat Laos in the final game (do miracles happen?) or at least hold them to a single-goal defeat, then Cambodia can still go through but I'm not putting my house on that happening.
And as expected, Laos stuffed Timor 6-1 and Cambodia missed out on qualification on goal difference despite ending on 5 points, the same total as the two qualifiers, Laos and Philippines. Drat and double-drat.
The Cambodia line-up: Mic, Raksmey, Rady, Rithy, Tiny; Narith, Sopanha, Borey (Soksana 83m), Sokngorn (Saray 64m); Sokumpheak, Laboravy (Sinoun 75m). [Subs not used] Borin, Piseth, Sothearath, Bunchhay.
Defender Tieng Tiny, one of 8 players booked in the game, played as well as ever
Khuon Laboravy's first-half free-kick that struck the crossbar was the closest Cambodia came to scoring
Keo Sokngorn had one of his quieter games in the jersey of the national team
Cambodia before kick-off. Back (LtoR): Mic, Tiny, Sopanha, Rady, Rithy, Laboravy. Front: Raksmey, Narith, Sokngorn, Sokumpheak, Borey. [Photo by]

Will Cambodia succeed?

The expected starting line-up for Cambodia. Back (LtoR): Borey, Laboravy, Borin, Sokngorn, Tiny, Mic. Front: Sothearath, Narith, Raksmey, Sopanha, Sokumpheak. [Photo by]
These are the men charged with upholding the Kingdom's honour in this afternoon's crunch encounter with a bigger, stronger, more cantankerous Philippines side (and their half a dozen foreigners-cum-token Filipinos) at 4pm in the final qualifying game of the AFF Suzuki Cup, being played in Vientiane, Laos. Cambodia need to win. Philippines only need a draw. It promises to be a cracker. Let's hope that PPCTV have sorted out their gremlins in time to show the whole match live. I doubt it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

YouTube v Timor Leste

YouTube have the highlights from Cambodia's 2nd game in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying series of matches taking place this week in Laos. Khim Borey netted a first-half hat-trick after Timor took an early lead. Nuth Sinoun addded to the Cambodia lead before a late strike settled the score at 4-2 in our favour. The decider against Philippines kicks-off at 4pm tomorrow (Tuesday), a match Cambodia need to win to progress.

Borey magic

Khim Borey enjoying himself and getting amongst the goals (pic by Nick Sells)
Khim Borey must be getting used to the plaudits after another headline-grabbing performance against Timor Leste in the Suzuki Cup yesterday. A first-half hat-trick in the space of 14 minutes is a tough ask for anyone but Borey, the darling of Cambodia's football-mad public, also made the headlines back in October 2008 when his winner against Brunei propelled Cambodia into the Suzuki Cup against the big boys. He spoke to the competition's website after his three-goal haul yesterday. "I am delighted that I was able to score a hat-trick for my country tonight. I owe a big thank you to my teammates because I could not have managed this feat without them. It is my second time in the Suzuki Cup and I feel that I have learnt a lot from my first experience in 2008 when I scored against Laos, Timor Leste and Brunei," he said. "I am confident that we can win our next match against the Philippines. And I want to score again!" Cambodia will need a victory against the Philippines tomorrow afternoon to confirm their advance to the next round when the likes of Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore join the competition. 21 year old Borey was the Golden Boot winner in 2008 as the country's leading goalscorer in the Cambodian League, though last season his tally was lessened when his club side, the Ministry of National Defence used him in a withdrawn midfield role. He skippered the Army team to a Hun Sen Cup success at the beginning of last term but it was back to his more favoured striking position yesterday, that Khim Borey did what he does best, scoring goals.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cambodia ease to win

Khim Borey (middle of 3 red shirts) steers in the 2nd Cambodian goal against Timor Leste, in the 4-2 success
Cambodia spanked Timor Leste 4-2 in their AFF Suzuki Cup qualifier played in Vientiane, Laos this afternoon. I'm told Khim Borey netted a hat-trick of goals but the Laos cameraman was so awful that we didn't actually see the first two goals, including Borey's first. Timor went ahead early on through Chiquito who outpaced Rang Borin before Borey apparently got a nod-in at the far post on 26 minutes. Two minutes later Keo Sokngorn broke away on the right flank and pulled it back for Borey to steer his shot inside the far post. Neat goal. Borey missed a sitter of a chance on 37 minutes when Kuoch Sokumpheak set him up but he made amends on 40 minutes when he got his head to a San Narith deep free-kick and the Timor goalkeeper Leonel allowed the ball to creep under his despairing dive. 3-1 at the interval and Cambodia were definitely in the driving seat. Almost predictably, they took their foot of the gas and allowed Timor back into the match. Nuth Sinoun came on and after 75 minutes he effectively wrapped it up when he blasted home after a tidy Tum Saray pull back from the bye-line, even though the commentators on PPCTV gave the scorer as Sokumpheak. Borey and Sinoun missed good opportunities before Timor's Anggison laced in a 25 yard free-kick that arrowed past Ouk Mic for 4-2 and though Tieng Tiny headed off the line in time added on, Cambodia recorded a comfortable win. It wasn't the walk in the park that many had hoped for but it was a victory and now they face the Philippines on Tuesday (who drew 2-2 with Laos courtesy of a last-gasp equaliser) with a good chance of making one of the two qualifying spots on offer. MOTM: No arguments, it has to go to Khim Borey, hat-trick hero. The Cambodia line-up v Timor Leste: Mic, Raksmey, Narith, Borin (Rithy 24m), Tiny; Sopanha, Sotherath, Sokumpheak, Sokngorn (Saray 54m); Borey, Laboravy (Sinoun 65m). [subs not used] Bunchhay, Soksana, Piseth, Rady.
Cambodia line-up before kick-off: Back (LtoR): Borey, Laboravy, Borin, Sokngorn, Tiny, Mic. Front: Sothearath, Narith, Raksmey, Sopanha, Sokumpheak. [Photo by]

What dreams are made of

The action was fast and furious at this morning's PPCFC Academy trials
Nearly every young boy has a dream of becoming a top footballer but only a few make it. Some will give up at the first attempt, others will do whatever it takes to make it. In Cambodia, the first step in fulfilling that dream is to join a football team and for those who are good enough, they may get a chance to join a professional team like Phnom Penh Crown. There are other teams they could join but only Crown are putting their full weight behind the development of the Kingdom's young stars. Their Elite Football Academy trials have been taking place across the country this month, in order to identify the best of the talent in the provinces and cities at age 13 and under and to give them a real stab at achieving their dream. This morning in Takhmao I went along to the 13th such trial that Crown have arranged and there are still another 4 to go before the culmination of their nationwide search will be the final trials in Phnom Penh early next month. From those final trials, the best 22 will be selected to join the full-time Elite Academy, a residential football and schooling programme never previously undertaken here in Cambodia. Crown are bringing the development of youth football into the 21st century.
This morning 45 young boys gave it their best shot at achieving that dream. On a dust-bowl of a pitch in Takhmao, they ran, tackled and shimmied their hearts out for nearly two hours under the scorching sun. At the end, just two boys earned selection for the final trials with another 4 in reserve. It's been a similar story across the country as the Crown youth coaching team of Bouy Dary, Kao Kiry and Hao Socheat have taken to the road to find the cream of the country's best youngsters. Turnout numbers have varied, with the youth of Pursat, Battambang and Kratie coming out in force, as did the boys in Phnom Penh. Take the example of 'Christiano'. He models himself on the Real Madrid star, both in his looks, particularly his hairstyle and his game, and he was so keen to follow his dream that he persuaded his parents to drive more than 30kms to this morning's trial. He gave it his best shot, didn't make the cut but at least he tried. He can never say he didn't give it a go. As the rest of the boys got on their bicycles to pedal home, two of the youngsters had the widest smiles of all and they will be coming to the final trials in a couple of weeks time, their dream still intact.
Kao Kiry and Bouy Dary telling the boys the format of the trial before it begins
This is the moment of truth as the best boys are selected for the final trial match of the morning
One of the two finalist teams alongwith PPCFC coaches Hao Socheat, Kao Kiry and Bouy Dary (right)
The line-up for the other finalist team at this morning's Takhmao (Kandal) trials

Saturday, October 23, 2010

YouTube match highlights

YouTube have the highlights from Cambodia's opening match in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying series of games taking place this week in Vientiane. The game ended goalless with Ouk Mic and Khuon Laboravy the pick of the Cambodian team, playing in their blue strip.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Honours even in Laos

Man of the match for the blues of Cambodia was Khuon Laboravy, seen here taking a well-earned rest
Honours were even at the end of the Laos v Cambodia Suzuki Cup qualifier played tonight in Vientiane, Laos. I managed to catch the action on an unnamed tv channel which clocked in 20 minutes after the game began. From video highlights Ouk Mic pulled off a wonderful save on ten minutes. For the 25 minutes of the first-half that I did see, Cambodia more than held their own, and managed a succession of half a dozen corners, from which Khuon Laboravy headed powerfully against the crossbar and Tieng Tiny blasted the loose ball wildly over the top on 35 minutes. Five minutes before that, Laos had also struck the bar when a Kaysone free-kick beat Ouk Mic in its flight. On 40 minutes, Laboravy was close to the opener when his touch to a Khim Borey knock-down was stopped at point-blank range by the Lao goalkeeper. All square at the interval, 0-0.
In the 2nd half, both teams tired visibly in the latter stages and chances were at a premium. Cambodia began the half brightly and a Laboravy header that bulged the net was flagged offside just after the restart. The same player then curled a 20 yard shot over the cross-bar. Laos made two quick substitutions and should've taken the lead on 73 minutes. Left winger Kaysone had his fierce drive turned aside by skipper Ouk Mic with a superb one-handed diving save and from the corner, the hosts headed wide when Rang Borin was outjumped to a header. Tum Saray, Nuth Sinoun and Phuong Soksana all got a taste of the action in the last third of the game and that helped Cambodia shut up shop against their fancied hosts and earn themselves a fully-deserved share of the spoils. In the opening game of the Suzuki Cup, the Philippines showed their mettle with a 5-0 win over Timor Leste, with Ian Araneta netting a hat-trick of headers. Cambodia next face Timor in 2 day's time (Sunday) and will have gained a lot of confidence from their performance tonight against Laos. My man of the match: Khuon Laboravy - he looked the most dangerous man in blue for Cambodia whenever he had the ball.
The Cambodia starting line-up (and changes): Mic (capt), Raksmey, Narith, Borin, Tiny; Sothearath (Saray 77m), Sopanha, Sokumpheak, Sokngorn (Sinoun 84m); Borey, Laboravy (Soksana 89m). [subs not used] Bunchhay, Rithy, Piseth, Rady.
Cambodia's captain Ouk Mic was called into action a few times and didn't let anyone down
This was the last we saw of Keo Sokngorn, who was stretchered off on 84 minutes
Khuoch Sokumpheak was played in a withdrawn midfield role in tonight's game
The final screen-scrape from the tv channel as the final score is shown, 0-0.

The Kingdom expects

Coach Lee Tae-Hoon (blue cap) will need to plot the downfall of Laos in tonight's Suzuki Cup opener
If you are a football fan in Cambodia then you should be glued to your television, computer or radio from 6.30pm onwards tonight, desperately trying to watch or listen to the first of the Suzuki Cup qualifying matches that the Cambodian national team will play in Vientiane in Laos this week. They meet their Lao hosts in what will be their hardest game to win. Laos are at home, they will be backed by large numbers of supporters - as they were in the SEA Games last year - and they are no slouches. We beat them in the BIDC Cup before the SEA Games but that was a young Laos team and we had home advantage, and their full national team will be much harder to beat. Despite the Cambodian coach Lee Tae-Hoon saying in the local press today that, "no problem, I think the boys will play well," he could be in for a rude awakening. He admitted; "we still have to sort out our problems areas, like the backline, but overall the side appears in good shape and spirits." A day before the first match and he's having problems with his backline after spending more than a month away in a training camp in Vietnam, and playing 10 warm-up games in preparation for tonight's game, doesn't fill me with bags of confidence. Individually we have very some talented performers in the likes of Kuoch Sokumpheak, Sun Sopanha, Tieng Tiny and Keo Sokngorn, and its the job of the coach to gel them together into a unit that will fight tooth and nail for every inch of ground and be able to apply that killer touch when presented with the opportunity. I didn't see that when I saw the team in their last warm-up game, so I'm hoping they were saving themselves for the competition proper. I think the starting line-up will be as follows; Mic, Raksmey, Narith, Borin, Tiny; Sothearath, Sopanha, Sokngorn, Laboravy; Sokumpheak, Borey. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for the game tonight and I'll update this blog as soon as I have any details.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

2012 challenges

News just out from Asian Football Confederation has paired Cambodia's national football team with Macau, to be played on a home and away basis in February 2011, to see who will qualify for the 16-team group phase of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup competition. The eight lowest-ranked teams out of 20 that have entered the Cup, will play off on a two-legged basis and the four winners will qualify for the group stage. Whilst Cambodia will lock horns against Macau in the play-offs to be played on February 9 and 16 2011, Bhutan will meet Afghanistan, the Philippines will take on Mongolia and Chinese Taipei will face Laos. The defending Challenge Cup champions are DPR Korea.
In the last qualifying competition held in April 2009, Cambodia lost 1-0 to Bangladesh and 1-0 to qualifiers Myanmar though we did beat Macau 2-1. The previous year, in May 2008, Cambodia, despite having home advantage, also failed to make it out of the qualifying group stage when they went down 1-0 to Nepal, who went through, though we did record a 3-1 success over Macau. If Cambodia achieves qualification, they will enter the group stage alongside Tajikistan, Maldives and Kyrgyzstan in Group C, to be played in March 2011.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

18-man squad announced

The Cambodian national squad for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying games in Laos this month, flew out from Pochentong Airport today, after the 18-man squad was named by South Korean coach Lee Ta-Hoon. Here is the line-up:

Ouk Mic, Peng Bunchhay.
Defenders: Rang Borin, Pheak Rady, Tieng Tiny, Sok Rithy, Lay Raksmey, San Narith.
Midfielders: Sun Sopanha, Ieng Piseth, Phuong Soksana, Chhun Sothearath, Khuon Laboravy, Tum Saray.
Forwards: Khim Borey, Kouch Sokumpheak, Nuth Sinoun, Keo Sokngorn (pictured right).

These are the men tasked by the head coach with gaining one of the two available qualifying slots from the competition in Vientiane over the next week. It will be tough as both the Philippines and Laos are rated higher than Cambodia, but it's an achievable goal, and one which we managed, albeit with home soil advantage, in 2008. I was a mite surprised to see Tum Saray and Phuong Soksana included after watching them for half an hour against the National Police, as well as throughout the C-League season that's just finished. They've been selected at the expense of the two Dalin's, Sin and Samuth, though I don't expect either to get a starting place. I've mentioned before that a number of the country's best players weren't selected by the new coach and his assistants, though that's water under the bridge now as we need to get behind the 18 players and the coaching team and their combined bid to gain qualification to the group stage of the AFF Suzuki Cup. Come on Cambodia.

French Khmers coming home

The Khmer Select squad that will arrive in Cambodia next month
There are a series of football games coming up in November that will be of interest to fans in Phnom Penh and beyond. A Khmer Select team from France will be journeying over to the Kingdom to play a series of five matches, three of them against the best of the C-League teams, to foster a closer relationship between the Khmer footballers of Cambodia and in France. The Khmer Select group arrive in the city on 4 Nov and will play their first match against Preah Khan Reach at the Olympic Stadium on 7 Nov at 3.30pm. They then meet Naga Corp on 10 Nov, same time, same location. Their third and final match against the big boys will be a meeting with C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown, also at Olympic Stadium on Saturday 13 Nov at 3.30pm. They will then play matches in Kompong Cham and Battambang before returning home to Paris on 18 Nov. The Khmer Select team have been together for a while now and the man behind them is former Cambodian national player Pen Phath.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A look at our opponents

Cambodia line-up for the camera a few days ago
As the Cambodian national football team get themselves ready to depart for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers in Vientiane, Laos tomorrow, let's take a quick look at their opponents who will be aiming to put one over Cambodia and qualify for the Suzuki Cup group stages in December. If we look first at the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings then Cambodia are the third best of the four teams taking part in the qualifying matches. Top of the pile are the Philippines, ranked 165th in the world, followed by hosts Laos at 177th. Cambodia lie one place below at 178th, tied with Dominica, whilst the whipping boys should be Timor Leste who rank 201st. However, FIFA rankings mean little when it comes down to the blood and thunder of the qualifying games. In the 2008 qualifiers held in Phnom Penh, it was Laos and Cambodia who went through, though Philippines are still smarting over missing out by goal difference. This time around they are making waves under new coach Simon McMenemy, only six weeks into the job, and who just beat Macau 5-0 in a 4-team tournament. At 32 he's the youngest international coach in the world and can count an international cap with Brunei before coaching youngsters at some of England's best clubs. Amongst his squad will be Neil Etheridge, the number 2 goalkeeper at Fulham, 2nd Division players from Germany, Holland and Iceland and the Younghusband brothers, who have bags of experience. They will be a tough nut to crack. Laos also have a new man at the helm, former Grimsby and Darlington boss David Booth, who has arrived from Indian club football. He has international experience as coach of Myanmar, so he knows the drill and what's required to qualify, especially as the pressure will be on the host country. Striker Lamnao Singto is their man to watch. Timor Leste are the underdogs, as usual, though their 2-2 draw with Cambodia in 2008 still ranks as their best result in Suzuki Cup history. They too have a new coach in Brazilian Antonio Carlos Viera, who previously led Belize.

Cambodia's matches in the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying competition are as follows:
22 Oct: Laos v Cambodia 6.30pm
24 Oct: Cambodia v Timor Leste 4pm
26 Oct: Philippines v Cambodia 4pm
You can find out more about the AFF Suzuki Cup here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another damp squib

The 2nd string starting line-up for today's game; (Back row LtoR): Soksana, Bunhieng, Bunchhay, Sovanara, Rithy, Sinoun. (front row): Samuth Dalin, Rady, Piseth, Sin Dalin, Saray
The Cambodian national team completed their warm-up games this afternoon, with a 1-1 draw with the Police Commissariat team before they fly to Laos on Wednesday, though it ended in a damp squib, in more ways than one. South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon began the game with what most regard as his second string line-up and it showed. For the thirty minute first half against the recently promoted Police team, the national team looked pretty clueless and found themselves a goal down at the interval. On 26 minutes, the Police passed their way through the centre of the national defence, leaving Sophal Udom (who has just completed a 6-month ban after playing for Khemara last campaign) with the room to finish with a sweet strike. It was no more than the Police team deserved as they bossed most of the first half against their more illustrious opponents. By half-time, the coach had seen enough and for the 2nd period, he replaced the whole team. The second half began in torrential rain, the sort that makes passing football impossible, and though the national team looked considerably brighter, the waterlogged pitch did nothing to help their game. Khuon Laboravy's shot crept under the foot of a defender and over the line for the equalizing goal 9 minutes after the restart but with the unrelenting rain coming down in buckets, coach Lee Tae-Hoon instructed the referee to call it quits on 16 minutes, with honours shared. It was the right decision.
The coach will have surmised from the first-half that his second choice XI aren't good enough, even with 8 games behind them as a squad whilst they were at their training camp in Vietnam for the last month or so. The second-half line-up were much better but the rain curtailed any real chance of a good work-out and the coach will now select just 18 players from the 22 on show to make the trip, leaving for Laos on Wednesday. He has injury concerns over a lower back strain for Keo Sokngorn and 3 stitches in a cut above his left eye for Tieng Tiny, plus any aches and pains from today's match.
The players who were on show today were:
(1st half); Bunchhay, Sovanara, Rady, Bunhieng, Rithy, Piseth, Soksana, Samuth Dalin, Saray, Sinoun, Sin Dalin.
(2nd half); Mic, Raksmey, Narith, Borin, Tiny, Sothearath, Sopanha, Sokngorn, Sokumpheak, Borey, Laboravy.
The players I believe that will not make the final 18-man squad are in italics.
The two teams line-up in friendship before kick-off
Coach Lee Tae-Hoon (blue cap) gives the squad some last minute instructions
The first choice national team line-up keeping the bench warm for today's first half
Torrential rain caused the abandonment of today's warm-up match in the 2nd half

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I'm just back after 10 days in Vietnam and I hear that the Cambodian national team were held to a pretty boring goal-less draw against C-league side Preah Khan Reach on Friday at the Olympic Stadium, in one of a couple of warm-up games scheduled by the FFC and the South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon - who wasn't very impressed by the performance against PKR - before the 18-man squad head for Laos and the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying matches that begin on the 22nd of this month. Cambodia face Laos in the opening game, then meet Timor Leste on the 24th and the Philippines on the 26th, all the games being played in Vientiane, with the top two teams going forward to the Suzuki Cup proper in December. Sadly I wasn't at the game myself to be able to give my own views on how the national team is shaping up under the new coach ahead of this year's most important football competition for the country's footballers. However, there may be a last chance to see the team in action, when they face the newly-promoted Police Commmissariat side at the Olympic Stadium at 3.30pm Monday afternoon. The squad then leave for Laos on Wednesday.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Back in the fold

It's all quiet on the blog at the moment as I'm in the Mekong Delta on a working holiday. The Cambodian national team were due back on home soil on the 8th after their training camp in Vietnam, and a handful of games against local teams, as a warm-up for the forthcoming AFF Suzuki Cup matches in Laos. They should resume squad training again very soon before they head up to Laos again, in a return to their old stomping ground, where the Under-23s appeared in the SEA Games at the back end of last year (and at least 7 of the U23s were involved in their recent friendlies in Saigon). I don't have the full details of the friendlies that the squad played whilst they were in Vietnam, the information coming out of the FFC is as bare as it ever was, though I have to agree that the results are immaterial, its the preparation for the Suzuki Cup that is all important, for the squad to gel together and for them to be playing the way the new coach expects. It would be good to get a friendly match on home soil under their belts before they head to Laos but I won't hold my breath.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Same old, same old

It feels like the only time that Cambodian football makes the news headlines these days is when a journalist does a story on the African players playing, or not, in the Kingdom. First the Cambodia Daily did a spread, then Radio Australia and now last month's SEAsia Globe magazine have jumped on the bandwagon. It annoys me that the foreign players in Cambodian football get far more press coverage than the local Khmer players ever get and whilst they are an important facet of the C-League, they aren't the be all and end all. Whilst around 40 foreign players, mostly Nigerians, were connected to C-League clubs last season, there are supposedly upwards of 200 African footballers seeking places on the team rosters. Phrases like 'trafficking in footballers' and 'agents recruiting players with false promises' roll off the media pages all too easily. There are far more uplifting stories the journalists could pursue, but they don't, choosing instead to tarnish the game in Cambodia with the usual negativity that seems to be food and drink to the media. Cambodian football is much more than the press would have you believe, take the advent of Phnom Penh Crown's residential football academy for youngsters, as a prime example. Thousands of boys across the country following their dreams of becoming a professional footballer. These are the type of stories that we need to promote and shout about football in the Kingdom.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Head youth coach Bouy Dary giving instructions to this morning's young hopefuls
Around 100 youngsters donned their football kit and boots to take part in the first of the nationwide trials that Phnom Penh Crown are holding to uncover the cream of Cambodia's young football talent, aged 13 and under. The Olympic Stadium was this morning's venue with boys from teams in and around Phnom Penh such as BBU, Boeung Keng Kang, Navy, Army, Prek Kdam and Prey Toteng showing off their skills in order to claim one of the coveted places in PPCFC's Elite Football Academy, and making that first step to becoming a professional football player. The PPCFC youth coaches, Bouy Dary, Kao Kiry and Hao Socheat were being assisted by former national team coach Scott O'Donell in spotting the youngsters with the most potential. Sixteen more trials will be held across the provinces before the very best of the young prospects will be invited to final trials in Phnom Penh in early November. From those, 22 will be selected to join the new PPCFC full-time residential academy.
Some of the hundred or so youngsters, aged 13 and under, who took part in the first of the PPCFC trials
With the main stand of the Olympic Stadium in the background, the trials get underway

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Prepping continues

The Cambodian national team continue their preparations in Vietnam ahead of their AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying matches later this month. They have played practice matches against local Vietnamese teams as well as their hosts Under 23 squad on two occasions, as new coach, Lee Tae-Hoon gets his team in shape physically and mentally after the recent conclusion of the C-League season. Physical fitness has been an important focus of the South Korean coach who complained that his team simply weren't fit enough before they left for Vietnam just over a month ago. A rigorous training regime has followed. The squad will return to Cambodia on the 8th but there's no word yet whether they will have any more practice matches ahead of their first Suzuki Cup qualifier against Laos on the 22nd of the month. The qualifying round-robin matches are taking place in Vientiane, and Cambodia will also face Timor Leste on the 24th and the Philippines on the 26th. The two best teams from the series of matches will progress to the Suzuki Cup competition proper, that will be held jointly in Vietnam (Hanoi) and Indonesia (Jakarta) between 1-8 December.

Cream of Cambodia

It all starts tomorrow. The search for the best young footballing talent aged 13 and under in the country begins in earnest at 8am tomorrow morning at the Olympic Stadium. Phnom Penh Crown's desire to fill the 22 places in their Elite Football Academy that will begin in November, with the cream of the country's most talented youngsters, will take the club's coaches on a nationwide hunt throughout October as they crisscross the provinces as follows:
4th Phnom Penh; 5th Kompong Chhnang; 10th Pursat and Battambang; 12th Banteay Meanchey; 14th Kompong Cham; 15th Kompong Thom; 16th Siem Reap; 18th Kratie; 19th Stung Treng; 21st Prey Veng; 22nd Svay Rieng; 24th Kandal; 25th Takeo; 27th Kampot/Kep; 28th Sihanoukville; 29th Koh Kong.
The best players that are unearthed will be invited to Phnom Penh for final trials in early November and from those, 22 young boys will be given the opportunity of a lifetime to turn their dream of becoming a professional footballer into a reality, as part of PPCFC's residential football academy. Nothing like this has been attempted before in Cambodia, this is new ground that PPCFC are breaking and judging by the professional approach they are adopting, it will serve as a model for this kind of development of grassroots football in the kingdom.