Sunday, June 12, 2011

Crown head for Singapore

Phnom Penh Crown are busy with preparations for their annual jaunt to Singapore for the RHB Singapore Cup this coming Wednesday. The Crown squad - expected to be 20-strong dependent on visa negotiations - will leave around mid-day and will land in time for a practice session before a good night's sleep. The following day, they face one of Singapore's best teams, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAFFC) under the floodlights at the 10,000 capacity Choa Chu Kang Stadium, with a 7.30pm kick-off. SAFFC can boast a pretty impressive record, winning the S-League a record eight times, four of them on the trot between 2006-2009. In 2007 and 2008 they did what no other club has done, capturing the league crown as well as the Singapore Cup in two successive seasons. The good news is that they are fallible. Last season they finished in 4th place in the league and have been booted out of the Singapore Cup in the first round on the last two occasions. On the other side of the coin, they are nicely poised at the moment in 3rd place and amongst the S-League pacesetters, and have won the Singapore Cup four times. They've even played Crown before, when they were known as Phnom Penh United, with SAFFC coming out on top, 8-1. The winners of this one-off game will meet Albirex Niigata in the two-legged quarter-final in September, after they overcame Australia's South Melbourne 3-0 earlier today. There are eleven Singapore teams and five invited foreign teams in this year's 1st round of the competition. It will be Phnom Penh Crown's sixth appearance in the RHB-sponsored Singapore Cup. They lost to SAFFC 8-1 in 2006; to Sengkang Punggol 4-3 as Phnom Penh Empire in 2007; 2-0 to Young Lions in 2008; deafeated Young Lions 2-0 before losing to Bangkok Glass over two legs 5-4 in 2009; and last season losing 2-1 to Etoile.
Crown's caretaker-coach Bouy Dary, still in charge of the team following Bojan Hodak's recent exit for the Chinese Super League, has experienced the Singapore Cup with his team before. "We know that the SAFFC are a good team, with a good record and with good players. We've watched their recent games on video. They play a slower game than other countries in the region and so we'll be looking to defend well and use our quick players on the counter-attack. But we know it's going to be a really tough game." Defensively, Crown have conceded just seven goals in their last ten matches and have built their success in the Metfone C-League, which they lead, and qualification for the final stages of the AFC President's Cup on a strong backline. They will also have some insider information with two of their squad, Odion Obadin and Kingsley Njoku having played in Singapore for the last three years with Gombak United. SAFFC will rely heavily on their naturalized Singaporeans such as British-born Daniel Bennett and Bah Mamadou from Mali, and their own foreign contingent which includes two Croatians, one Japanese and one Serbian player.

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