Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thais too strong

In the 2nd of their friendly matches in Bangkok, as part of their pre-Hun Sen Cup training camp, Phnom Penh Crown showed up well for an hour before falling to a 3-1 defeat against Thai Premier League side Osotspa M-150 Saraburi this afternoon. The Thais finished 7th in last season's TPL. Coach Bojan Hodak pitched his all-Khmer line-up against an all-Thai XI in the first half and the Khmers came out on top, hitting the crossbar and dominating the action. Osotspa changed their whole line-up after the break, but couldn't stop Crown taking the lead 5 minutes after the restart through Sok Pheng. Four minutes later the Thai side levelled and with Crown tiring and making a series of substitutions, Osotspa netted further goals on 65 and 80 minutes. Osotspa fielded eight foreigners in the 2nd half and their strength told in the end. After the game, Crown coach Hodak commented; "we were a little tired because of 2 games in 3 days though I was pleased with our performance for an hour, but I'm a perfectionist, so I will never be completely happy. Our finishing can still improve and we also need to minimize mistakes when we are defending." Crown will now have more sessions on their own training ground in Tuol Kork, once they return from Bangkok, before they are due to spend a week in Kompong Thom, facing their three Hun Sen Cup Group D opponents, from 7 January.
PPC line-up: Visokra (Bunchhay 45), Dara (Vanthan 60), Narith (Sovan 82), Tiny, Sothearith, Borey, Narong (Virath 82), Sopanha (Sophat 80), Chaya (Ratana 60), Pheng (Virak 60), Sokumpheak (Rathanak 82).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sokumpheak double

2 goals from Kouch Sokumpheak set Crown on their way this afternoon
The word from Bangkok is that Phnom Penh Crown got off to the best possible start to their 5-day training stint in the Thai capital, with a 5-1 win over Thai Division 2 team Nonthaburi this afternoon. Kouch Sokumpheak gave Crown the lead on 11 minutes though Nonthaburi levelled a minute later. Leading from the front, Sokumpheak restored Crown's lead a few minutes before the interval. Sun Sopanha put Crown firmly in control with a goal three minutes after the restart, before Sok Pheng added a 4th ten minutes later and substitute Tes Sophat rounded it off in the 83rd minute.
Getting the job done and done well will have pleased coach Bojan Hodak ahead of their opening Hun Sen Cup matches in early January. "I am happy that our finishing improved over recent matches," said the Croatian coach after the game. The Crown team were without their Nigerian imports whilst their opponents fielded at least half a dozen foreign players. Crown now meet Thai Premier League side Osotspa Saraburi on 29 December at 4pm.
PPCFC line-up: Bunchhay (Visokra 45), Narith, Vanthan (Dara 45), Tiny (Sovan 78), Sothearith, Narong (Sophat 78), Sopanha (Virath 80), Chaya (Ratana 69), Borey, Pheng (Ratanak 78), Sokumpheak (Virak 60).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bangkok ahoy

There has been a change to Phnom Penh Crown's training camp across the border and instead of heading for Vietnam as originally thought, they will now relocate to Bangkok in Thailand on Christmas Day for five days, to train and play a couple of friendly matches. This will be a great opportunity for coach Bojan Hodak to cement his new squad and engender team spirit ahead of the forthcoming Hun Sen Cup matches that begin on 7 January in Kompong Thom. Their likely opponents will be two Thai Premier league teams, thought to be Bangkok Glass and maybe BEC Tero Sasana, though that is still awaiting confirmation. Last June, Crown took part and won a four-team tournament in Mukdahan province in Thailand, that included the home team, Thai side Loei City and Champasak from Laos. Meanwhile, 21 members of the North Korean Olympic football squad (they call themselves DPR Korea) are in Cambodia and based at the National Football Center just outside Phnom Penh at Cheng Meng until the middle of January. They have a strict training regime whilst they are here but may squeeze in a couple of games against local club sides.
The two friendly games during Phnom Penh Crown's Bangkok trip have now been confirmed. Crown will meet Thai Regional League Division 2 team Nonthaburi FC on 26 December at 4pm. They will then face Thai Premier League side Osotspa Saraburi on 29 December, also at 4pm. They are still trying to firm-up a date when they can play the DPR Korea team at the Cheng Meng football center.

Friday, December 17, 2010

From the stadium

Phnom Penh Crown coach Bojan Hodak gains the attention of his players before they face the Cambodian national team
Assistant coach Vann Piseth (left) and Bojan Hodak discuss tactics before kick-off
Soeng Vanthan warms-up under the watchful eye of coach Bojan Hodak
Soeng Vanthan and Kouch Sokumpheak square up in practice
The Cambodian national coach Lee Tae-Hoon (white shirt) prepares his players before they face Phnom Penh Crown

All square

PPC line-up at the start: [back row, LtoR] Tiny, Borey, Ratana, Sopanha, Sothearith, Vanthan [front row] Narith, Chaya, Visokra, Sokumpheak, Narong
Phnom Penh Crown coach Bojan Hodak bemoaned his team's wayward finishing after watching Crown dominate the goal chances tally but fail to convert in their 1-1 draw with the Cambodian national team XI at Olympic Stadium this afternoon. "The first 45 minutes was okay. They didn't create any chances, we hit the post , had a few more chances but our finishing was poor. Mostly we controlled the game for 60 minutes but when I started to make changes, you could see some players are not ready for this level. In the first half, if we had creativity and finishing we would've been 2 or 3 up. Overall we're fine, we're good for an hour but we need to use our brain more. We have 3 more games before we begin the Hun Sen Cup and in my mind I have the first 8 or 9 and I'm looking for two more players for my starting line-up."
The match began as it was to continue, with Crown pressing and Khim Borey dragged a shot wide of the far post after a couple of minutes. There were interruptions aplenty with the referee pulling up players for niggling fouls before Chan Chaya skipped his way past two latch-ditch tackles on 20 minutes, only to watch his carefully rolled shot strike the post and rebound into the hands of national keeper Ouk Mic. Two minutes later, Soeng Vanthan's low cross was miscued in front of goal by Hong Ratana and his shot rolled agonizingly wide. Both teams were guilty of pettiness though it was Crown and San Narith who incurred the referee's wrath when he aimed a kick at Keo Chea as he lay on the ball, as the match petered out until half-time.
Hong Ratana sent a header over the top just after the restart, with his teammates Sun Sopanha testing Mic with a drilled 25-yard drive and Kouch Sokumpheak missing the target by inches with a neat flicked header from a Sopanha free-kick. Both coaches rang the changes with a flurry of substitutions but it was Crown's Kingsley Njoku who came closest to opening the scoring when he charged down a Mic clearance but his shot on the rebound was cleared off the line by Pheak Rady. Finally on 82 minutes, Crown broke the deadlock. Sun Sopanha swung over a deep corner and Tieng Tiny had the simple task of guiding his header into an unguarded net for 1-nil. More changes saw Crown blood trialists Samut Dalin and keeper Sin Pisal with five minutes to go and with his first touch, Sok Pheng raced clear only to see national keeper Hem Simay stand firm against his drilled shot.
With a minute to go Tes Sophat, a Crown sub just a few minutes earlier, pushed Tuy Sam in the chest during an altercation on the touchline and was shown a straight red card. It was handbags at five paces but the match had been boiling up since the start. Once the fuss had died down, the Cambodia national team won a corner in the first minute of time added on, and with their first direct effort on goal, Ke Vannak escaped his marker and headed in Chhun Sothearath's floated corner for an undeserved equalizer. The game finished a couple of minutes later, all square at 1-1.
Coach Hodak was philosophical as he explained after the final whistle. "In Cambodian football, I see fouls when there is no reason to foul. It is complete nonsense. Watch a Champions League game and you might see ten fouls per match. Today we saw 30 or 40 fouls. I'm trying to change it but you can't realistically change too much in a month." Did he learn anything from the game? "You always learn from each match. Some players surprised me positively, whilst others aren't ready to play at the very top level but might be useful in the league. A few players are coming back from injury and you can see the quality in some of them."
PPCFC line-up: Visokra (Sin Pisal 85), Sopanha (Sophat 85), Vanthan (Dara 45), Tiny (Sovan 91), Sothearith, Narong, Narith (Obadin 68), Ratana (Rathanak 68), Borey (Samut Dalin 85), Chaya (Njoku 68), Sokumpheak (Pheng 85).
Cambodia national team XI: Mic (Simay 59), Sam, Rady, Bunhieng (Tola 63), Piseth, Sothearath (Soksana 70 [Sothearath 88]), Chea (Sophal Udom 59), Chanrasmey, Soksana (Vannak 59), Chhoeurn, Saray.
The Cambodian starting XI; [back row, LtoR] Mic, Rady, Saray, Chanrasmey, Bunhieng, Piseth [front] Sam, Sothearath, Soksana, Chea, Chhoeurn

Off to Kompong Thom

The Hun Sen Cup 2011 draw has been made - it's the cup competition that acts as a pre-cursor warm-up to the regular Metfone C-League season - and Phnom Penh Crown will have to spend a week in Kompong Thom for the first round of group matches. They were drawn in Group D and will face three other teams, home side Kompong Thom, Neak Kheav and Siem Reap-based Baksey Chamkrong. The games are due to take place between 7-12 January before the next round of knock-out matches, usually the last sixteen teams, will move to Phnom Penh. Kompong Thom have a new stadium these days on the outskirts of town after their original pitch was turned over for construction. Foreign players are not allowed to play in the Hun Sen Cup, it's for homegrown talent only, so Crown will have to do without their two Nigerian imports, Kingsley Njoku and Odion Obadin. Last season, Crown were beaten 3-2 in the final of the cup by the Army, captained by Crown new boy Khim Borey. The match dates for Crown have been confirmed as: 7 January at 8am versus Neak Khiev aka Blue Dragon (Kompong Cham); 10 January at 4.30pm versus Kompong Thom; 12 January at 2pm versus Baksey Chamkrong (Siem Reap).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ly at the finals

Referee Kuong Ly in red, really loving his work
A man in the middle who obviously enjoys his football, judging by the picture above, is Cambodian referee Kuong Ly. His enjoyment will have been enhanced in the last week or two by his inclusion amongst the competition's match officials for two of the recent AFF Suzuki Cup group matches in Vietnam, and again tonight, this time in Jakarta, for the semi-final first leg between Philippines and Indonesia, which the latter won 1-0. Kuong Ly was seen both in the middle and on the line, as assistant referee, in quite a few C-League matches last term, so he's no stranger to running the line. In fact he ran the line in last season's C-League play-off final between Phnom Penh Crown and Preah Khan Reach. He was also the main man when he allowed a match to play to a conclusion between PKR and Kirivong in June, when any right-minded match official would've called the game off. It was more a water-polo match than a football game after an incessant downpour left the Olympic pitch completely waterlogged. Nevertheless, he has been recognized for his flag-waving capabilities and included in the match officials pool for this prestigious tournament.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Crown are sunk

That's the last of the action for Chea Virath as he's helped off the pitch by physio Chhin Sophorn
Phnom Penh Crown went down to their first defeat of their pre-season programme, losing 3-1 against an African All Stars XI this afternoon at Crown's Tuol Kork training ground. It wasn't a game for the faint-hearted with ten bookings and a red card and with the all-African team offering stern opposition, it was a good workout for the Crown squad, just ahead of their match against the Cambodian national team and a week-long training camp in Vietnam. Crown coach Bojan Hodak left his two Nigerian imports on the touchline and began with an all-Khmer line-up against their African opponents who boasted amongst their ranks the likes of former Crown striker Olisa Onyemerea, BBU's Nelson Oladiji, Dennis Nwaizu (Prek Pra), Anthony Nzekwest (Preah Khan) and Khemara's Peter Olajide. The match began at a frenetic pace and Hong Ratana and Phoung Narong went close for Crown, whilst an extraordinary long throw-in by the Africans caused consternation in the Crown back-line. Onyemerea struck a 20-yard drive that ricocheted off bar and post to give notice of his intent and on 26 minutes he gave his side the lead when his high cross-shot was helped into his own net by Crown keeper Hong Visokra. On the half-hour, Crown spurned the opportunity to level when Thul Sothearith's weakly-struck penalty was pushed out by the opposition keeper, who'd been booked for a fly-hack on Kouch Sokumpheak as he broke through. A few minutes later the referee looked the other way when Sokumpheak had his legs taken away a second time. Five minutes before the break, Onyemerea held off the challenge of Sothearith and fired a ferocious drive past Visokra from a ridiculous angle to give the All Stars a two-goal half-time lead, though there was still time for Sokumpheak to be denied again when his shot was saved by the keeper's outstretched leg.
Visokra pulled off a fine one-handed stop to deny Onyemerea as he tried his luck from long range again, before Crown reduced the arrears two minutes after the hour. Sun Sopanha chipped a pass over the top and Hong Ratana turned quickly, spotted the keeper off his line and finished with a sublime chip. Substitute Kingsley Njoku sent a powerful header fizzing just wide and Ratana rose above the keeper to send his header the wrong side of the upright as Crown pressed. But the All Stars reacted quickly as Crown reorganized after another substitution and Nelson Oladiji broke clear to slip their third goal under Visokra on 75 minutes. Crown didn't fold and Njoku had an effort cleared off the line, Chan Chaya's break into the box was thwarted by the keeper again whilst their final chance saw Odion Obadin strike a rising shot against the crossbar. In the final seconds, the All Stars went down to ten-men with a second yellow card followed by a red, but the victory was already theirs.
PPCFC line-up: Visokra, Sopanha, Vanthan, Tiny, Sothearith (Obadin 66), Narong (Sovan 45), Narith (Sophat 78), Virath (Rathanak 45), Ratana (Borey 74), Pheng (Chaya 45), Sokumpheak (Njoku 66). Subs not used: Bunna, Dara.
Crown keeper Peng Bunchhay and wideman Suong Virak are with the Pannasastra University team in Chiang Mai, Thailand who are playing in the 15th Asean University Games from 14-23 December. Last week the University team, who are representing Cambodia, defeated the Cambodian national team 2-0 in a midweek friendly warm-up game.
Chim Rathanak is foiled by the All Stars goalkeeper in the 2nd half
The African All Stars XI line-up before the game

Vietnam bound

Phnom Penh Crown are heading for Vietnam just before Christmas to spend a week of pre-season preparation, fitting in a couple of practice matches, before the Hun Sen Cup is due to start in the second week of January. This afternoon, at their Tuol Kork headquarters, they will entertain a team of African-born players at 3pm, as part of their on-going fitness and match programme. This will also include a practice game against the Cambodian national team at the Olympic Stadium on Friday 17th, at 3pm.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Get it right

23 is actually Prak Mony Udom and 19 is Sam El Nasa, though the shirts say different
Is it me or is this just plain shoddy? I noticed that when the Cambodian national team players entered the pitch on Sunday for their friendly match against Ulsan University, that two of the players shirts were telling porky-pies. The shirts claimed that numbers 23 and 19 belonged to Nuth Sinoun and Sin Dalin, whereas both players are not even in the current national team squad. In fact, 23 was worn by Prak Mony Udom and 19 by the evergreen Sam El Nasa. I know that in the overall scheme of things it means diddly-squat, but we are talking about the team that represents the country and surely there are even basics that they have to get right. Or not, as the case may be. If you can't get it right, don't even both with the names. I must admit that the day before, Phnom Penh Crown played a practice match and they didn't have either names or numbers on the back of their jerseys. Luckily I know who the players are.

A month in

A month into his tenure as Phnom Penh Crown's new head coach, Bojan Hodak sat down to share his thoughts on how his charges are shaping up.

Q. How useful are the practice games?
"These first few practice games are more for me to judge the players. It means I can see the players perform under pressure. Some players are training players, they can be amazing in training but when it comes to matchday, they are nowhere to be seen. This can be a mental problem or because in training they are allowed time and space. That's why these few games are really for my benefit. When I decide on my first XI, the rest of the practice games will help them to reach their peak at the right time.
"We will continue with these matches but we are discussing going to either Thailand or Vietnam to play a few friendly games as well because games there will be tough, and playing against better players will improve our players. This will be in the second half of this month. We are expecting the Hun Sen Cup to start around 8/9 January."

Q. Have you seen any difference in your month in charge?
"You cannot expect to see a huge difference because it's a short time but I think the players can see a difference from the first match until now, especially physically speaking. In that first game we lost every tackle and we couldn't run. Technically, we are now passing the ball much better, so we are improving, we are better than before, but tactically we are bad. In particular, we need to improve our finishing and our final pass. We are really poor, for example, in the final third where our creativity is zero. In the games so far, our chances were created individually, not as a team. In the last match, this was much better but our finishing was horrible. This is where we need to improve a lot. Defensively we need to get better as well, defending set pieces for example, these are tactical things which I must work on.
"Individually, I will explain their mistakes. For the strikers, the most common mistake with all players is when they are in the penalty box. They are trying to kill the goalkeeper instead of just placing the ball in the net. Most times in the penalty area you just need to place the ball. One-on-one we try to hit it as hard as we can."

Q. What are your thoughts on the Cambodian national team's schedule of games?
"I gave our players to the national team for a week as a sign of goodwill. But I also need them to prepare for the Hun Sen Cup. If they wish to have national games, they need to plan in advance and have a break in the league program. I want as many of my players in the national team as possible. I respect the national team, but it must be thought through in advance."

Q. How are you and your family settling in?
"We're settling in fine. I'm driving around, exploring every day. It's not a problem as Phnom Penh is ten times smaller than Kuala Lumpur. You can get everywhere quite quickly. First impression was that everyone was driving so slow, but you get used to it and because of this, there aren't any bad accidents. We have our place (in Tuol Kork), my wife and son are fine. So far so good.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cambodia crash

The national team starting line-up: [Back row LtoR] Mic, Sopanha, Raksmey, Tiny, PM Udom, Piseth. [Front] Soksana, Narith, El Nasa, Sothearath, Sokumpheak
The Cambodian national team crashed 4-1 in this afternoon's friendly encounter with the visiting collegiate side, Ulsan University from South Korea. So it's back to the drawing board for Cambodia's South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon who lined up with a 4-5-1 formation that did reasonably well for much of the first half but which fell apart after the interval. The coach is using a plethora of games against local C-league teams as well as this match against the University team that was playing its third game against the national team in as many years, to assess the players worthy of a place in the national squad for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying matches in February against Macau. Included in the squad for this game were some new names and faces including Pom Tola from the Army, the Police defender Soy Piseth and PKR's Soun Veasna. Piseth got a starting berth alongside Tieng Tiny and did well enough, as he and his teammates started the game in positive fashion, taking the lead after just 2 minutes. Kouch Sokumpheak, playing wide left, swung over a perfect cross which evaded the challenge of Sam El Nasa in the middle but struck the knee of Ulsan defender Choo Seung Woo and crept over the goal-line. On the half-hour Ulsan forced half a dozen corners without causing too much of a threat on Ouk Mic's goalmouth. However, on 36 minutes, Mic found himself beaten by a wicked bounce as the ball reared up off the turf and over his despairing dive, after Kim Woo Jung struck from outside the box. Honours even at half-time.
Just four minutes after the resumption, Ulsan got their noses in front when substitute Pom Tola's weak headed clearance fell at the feet of Choi Min Seok who rifled the ball past Mic. After that it was pretty much one-way traffic as both teams rang the changes but the fresh legs of Ulsan proved more effective. On the hour, Tola was outwitted by Kim Woo Jung who flashed in his second goal of the game, before late substitute Lee Jae Wook bent down low to head a fourth in time added on. Ulsan stepped on the gas in the second half, upped the tempo and effectively silenced Cambodia's hopes of a first win against the collegiate side. Chhin Chhoeurn sent a glancing header inches wide with Cambodia's best chance of the second period but it was too little against the more powerful visitors.
Cambodia line-up: Mic, Raksmey (Tola 45), Narith (Rady 77), Tiny, Piseth, Sopanha (Veasna 71), Sothearath, Soksana (Chhoeurn 45), Prak Mony Udom (Laboravy 38), Sokumpheak (Sophal Udom 62), El Nasa (Pheng 60). Subs not used: Simay, Bunchhay, Rithy, Bunhieng,
Skipper Ouk Mic leads out the Cambodian national team
3 Phnom Penh Crown players line up alongside PKR's Ouk Mic. They are Sun Sopanha, San Narith and Kouch Sokumpheak (9).
The starting line-up wait for the handshakes
The substitutes bench pose with their friendship flowers
Friendship is the order of the day as the teams and guests pose

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Another step forward

Hong Ratana keeps his eye on the lofted cross before volleying in Crown's 2nd goal
Hong Ratana showed his talents in good measure in the first-half of this afternoon's pre-season practice match, in which Phnom Penh Crown beat Build Bright United 3-1 at Crown's Tuol Kork training ground, to record their 3rd win in as many games. Ratana scored twice and looked dangerous whenever he got the ball, playing on the right side of midfield rather than the left where he played most of last season. With 7 players on national team duty and unavailable, the match gave coach Bojan Hodak the opportunity to see his squad players in action. And that action came thick and fast with skipper Thul Sothearith giving Crown a 4th minute lead, when he coolly rolled his penalty into the corner after Chan Chaya theatrically fell over a challenge by BBU keeper Sos Proshim. On 13 minutes Suong Virak broke clear on the left wing and his lofted cross was expertly volleyed in by Hong Ratana as Proshim left his goal-line.
The BBU goalkeeper was kept on his toes with Kingsley Njoku and Ratana testing his reactions before BBU showed their mettle, twice hitting the woodwork through Chan Veasna and Keo Chea. With the last kick of the first half, Hong Ratana grabbed his second and Crown's third goal with a nifty swivel of his hips and a neat finish after Chan Chaya had put him in.
Five minutes after the break, Chan Dara was carried off with a knee injury. Both goalkeepers had a quiet time of it until BBU netted a consolation headed goal with ten minutes left on the clock. Crown had given 17 year old keeper Nim Bunna a run out and his first touch was to retrieve the ball from his net. A flailing fingertip save by the youngster a few minutes later kept the final score at 3-1. Coach Hodak declared himself; "happy with our play for an hour but then our legs were heavy as we've been doing lots of physical work recently. I was pleased that most of the players got their first full 90 minutes under their belts."
PPCFC line-up: Visokra (Bunna 76), Dara (Obadin 57), Vanthan, Sovan, Sothearith, Sophat (Virath 45), Narong, Ratana (Rathanak 45), Virak, Chaya, Njoku.
Crown's national squad members arrived to watch the second half, ahead of their game tomorrow (Sunday) against Ulsan University from South Korea. Khim Borey was one of them, nursing an ankle injury picked up in the midweek national team game against Naga, when he fell awkwardly.
Coach Bojan Hodak conducts a post-match inquest after the 3-1 success
Action from late in the game as the Crown wall defends against a BBU free-kick
It's half-time and the coaching staff explain what's required after the break
Mini-sprints before the game under the coach's stern gaze
1-touch games in the pre-match warm-up with Suong Virak (right)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Next up, BBU

Phnom Penh Crown will meet fellow C-League outfit Build Bright United in a practice match at 3pm on Saturday 4th December at Crown's own Tuol Kork training headquarters, as part of their pre-season preparation. The training headquarters is where the club's brand new Elite Football Academy will be housed from January and the dormitories, showers and study rooms are in the final stages of completion. The training ground is on Street 598 which heads north from Tuol Kork, and you take the next left turn after the TV3 studio, and then another left at the bus park. PPC will have to do without 7 of their squad as they are currently training with the Cambodian national team and have a game against Ulsan University at Olympic Stadium on Sunday 5th.
San Narith, one of the 7 PPC players who will miss Saturday's game against BBU due to his involvement with the Cambodian national team. Pic Nick Sells

Snood sir?

Arsenal's Nasri appears to revel in wearing his snood
So, the big question is - who will be the first player in the Cambodian League to wear a snood? What do you mean you have no idea what a snood is? The Premier League is awash with players sporting these new, natty neck-warmers. Different words for them have cropped up; a snood, a scarfetta or a cowl, but the most commonly used term appears to be snood. We are very familiar to players wearing gloves in the Premier League these days but now we look set to undergo a new fashion statement. In the C-League we have already seen gloves, including the ones that ladies wear to keep the sun off their bare arms, so it's only a matter of time before we see the first snood. If you spot one, call the fashion police immediately.
Naga's Meas Channa sports the long ladies gloves in last season's C-League. Pic Nick Sells