Saturday, October 29, 2011

Heading for disaster

He's had more lives than your average cat, Cambodia's coach, Lee Ta-Hoon
The feeling that Cambodia are heading for a disaster in the upcoming SEA Games is getting stronger by the minute. I saw for myself in 2009 how seriously the other teams in southeast Asia take this competition and how prepared their football teams are. Even though its played at U-23 level, countries like Vietnam and Thailand are determined to show their regional sporting strength and play as if their lives depended on it. Cambodia's team, who lost 1-0 to Nepal last night, and it wasn't Nepal's full senior squad in action whatever anyone tries to tell you, showed little in the way of sparkle considering they have this important competition just days away. In fact, Lee Tae-Hoon's teams rarely show anything resembling the kind of football that will get the Cambodian public on the edge of their seats. If there was ever a tide, it's definitely turned against the South Korean coach who has been responsible for a series of disappointing results in various competitions over the past 14 months. His suggestion that the World Cup was unimportant compared to the SEA Games may just be about to explode in his face, judging by the strength of the teams Cambodia will soon find themselves up against. For the players sake, I hope they do well and can hold their heads up, but frankly, I fear the worst. I simply don't believe the Korean has the tactical nous against the standard of opposition they will face, or the motivational skills to pump his team up for these high pressure matches. He has made his own bed and now has to lie in it, especially after refusing to include proven quality players like Khim Borey in his gameplan. The football federation in Cambodia must shoulder the blame for what's about to happen. They appointed an unproven and inexperienced coach because he came with the blessing, and financial backing, of the South Korean FA. Essentially, you get what you pay for and with Cambodia not footing the coach's salary, I'm sure you get the picture. It's too late to change anything now, we missed that particular boat long ago, and we'll just have to ride out the storm that's just about to break. So I suggest we batten down the hatches, because it's going to be a very rough ride in Jakarta.
Here are some photos from last night's 1-0 defeat friendly international to Nepal. Judging by the lethargic performance, it was one game too many following the BIDC Cup tournament and I hear that the coach was bemoaning a few injuries his team have picked up. let's hope they clear up over the next few days before the team take on the hosts Indonesia on 7 November. Apologies for the picture quality, my camera doesn't like night-time.
The Cambodian team line-up for the press, and my piss-poor camera
The tv camera catches the players singing the national anthem
The Cambodian bench with the coach on the far left
PPCFC's Sok Pheng (20), man-of-the-match Sou Yaty and capt Khuon Laboravy (11)
Some of the Cambodian team lining up before the match begins
All smiles before the start from Sok Sovan, Sok Rithy and Chhun Sothearath
Nepal's coach, and former England & Spurs defender, Graham Roberts

All round winners

The Crown Academy team in the 1st half. Back Row LtoR: Sovann, K Chhaya, Chanpolin, S Samnang, Baraing, Sakrovy. Front Row: Rozak, Ponvuthy, Sodavid, Muslim, Sovannaroth.
The Academy team that started the 2nd half: Back Row LtoR: Titchhy, S Samnang, Sopheak, Senteang, Chanchav, David. Front Row: Phearath, Noeut, T Chhaya, Chansopheak, V Samnang.
Though the Phnom Penh Crown first team are taking an end of season break, there is no such thing for the club's Academy players. As part of the 22-boy Elite Academy, the youngsters who come from all over the country, are in the Academy for the long run, getting football coaching and fitness training every morning and a private schooling at Beltei every afternoon, except for a holiday each Sunday. They reside in dormitories at the club's RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork, and have been there since February of this year. This morning, they played their first practice match for a month against the club's U-16 squad and came out on top, again, winning 7-3 played over three 30-minute periods. The U-16 boys had the audacity to open the scoring but Seut Baraing put a free-kick into the top corner and then Yeu Muslim poked home a goalkeeping mistake before the first break to make it 2-1. With Long Phearath whacking another into the top corner, it was all one-way traffic in the second period, with Suon Noeut racing clear on two occasions and finishing coolly in identical fashion and Ken Chansopheak showing some trickery in the box before lashing his shot home. In the third period, the U-16s made a fist of it with two more goals, though Pov Ponvuthy had a penalty saved and the Academy wrapped up the scoring after forcing an own goal by the U-16s defence. A good work-out for both squads in the hot sun and on a spongy pitch. The Academy youngsters have also begun extra English language lessons in recent weeks to add to their private schooling, which will add another layer to their ongoing development, not only as excellent footballers, but as fully-rounded individuals.
This free-kick from Baraing evaded everyone, including the keeper
Ponvuthy's penalty kick, that was saved late-on
Vat Samnang showing some neat trickery in the penalty box
The Academy boys listen to their head coach, Bouy Dary before the match begins

All change

News just in that the match dates for the SEA Games have already been changed, despite the draw being made just a few days ago. It sounds remarkably like the way the football federation in Cambodia handle their competitions. The changes see every match in group A, that includes Cambodia, has been brought forward by two days from the original date. So, the matches for Cambodia in the SEA Games next month now look like this:
Cambodia's SEA Games football fixtures:
7 Nov Indonesia v Cambodia at 7pm
9 Nov Singapore v Cambodia at 7pm
11 Nov Thailand v Cambodia at 5pm
13 Nov Malaysia v Cambodia at 4pm
All matches will be played at the 88,000 capacity Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tired and listless

Cambodia's starting line-up. Back Row LtoR: Sothearath, Rithy, Yaty, Raksmey, Sovan, Laboravy. Front row: Dalin, Chhoeurn, Phearith, Soksana, Pheng (pic Tep Phany)
We are a matter of days away from the SEA Games, expectations are mounting but tonight's performance by the Cambodia U-23s, who will be representing us at the SEA Games, was anything but encouraging. If they put on a repeat showing at the Games against the four higher-ranked teams they face in Group A, god help them. On tour Nepal won tonight's game 1-0, with a goal five minutes before the final whistle. To be honest, they were the better team, busy and buzzy and giving Sou Yaty a lot of practice in the Cambodian goal, but it looked to be heading for a goalless stalemate until Santhosh Shahukhala popped up, unmarked, at a corner and headed home powerfully past Yaty amidst a static defence. It came from a quickly-taken corner kick by Rabin Shrestha and found Cambodia disorganized and looking at each other for someone to blame. They were all guilty. Nepal had deserved it without really showing why they are ranked 32 places higher than the home team in the FIFA rankings, though Cambodia fielded their u-23s and Nepal's team was packed with similar-aged players. With former England and Spurs hard-man Graham Roberts at their helm and directing operations from the touchline, Nepal began the game brightly, breaking quickly and keeping Cambodia on the back foot for the first half-hour. Aside from Sok Pheng's weak header early on, Nepal pulled all the strings and gave Sou Yaty the opportunity to show why he's rated as the Kingdom's number one stopper. Two point blank saves from Yaty, on 26 minutes and another five minutes later, were top drawer. A quick free-kick bamboozled the home defence and Yaty needed to be quick off his line to deny Jumanu Rai close in. Next up, Bharat Khawas must've thought his far post, kneeling down header was the game's opening goal, only for Yaty to pull off another wonder stop. And that was essentially the last action of the half. Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon inexplicably replaced Sok Pheng on 32 minutes, though anyone of his team at that stage, could've been removed for their lack of purpose, guile, endeavour and enterprise. The whole team looked tired, listless and lethargic, which is a real concern with a major competition just around the corner.

Four minutes after the break, Yaty fumbled a low driven free-kick by skipper Sagar Thapa but was spared his blushes as Jumanu Rai blazed the loose ball over the top. Ten minutes in and substitute Shahukhala nipped in front of Sok Rithy to whip his shot against the upright, before the home team managed their first shot of the match, on the hour, with Chhun Sothearath firing over the bar from 25 yards out. Shahukhala wriggled free but fired wide when well placed and Phuong Soksana got a touch to a Khuon Laboravy pass but failed to beat Nepal keeper Kiran Limbu at the near post. A spell of Cambodian pressure around the 77 minute mark was the home team's best moments of the game. Sos Souhana blasted miles over from the edge of the box, Sok Sovan headed a corner towards goal at the far post but the danger was hacked clear and then Sothearath tried a cheeky chip from 20 yards that Limbu touched over as he frantically backpedaled. That was as good as it got for the hosts. As the game headed towards a goalless conclusion, Shahukhala had other ideas and was in the perfect place to head the game's winner with five minutes to go, to give Nepal their first win in their 4-game tour. It was more than most of the Cambodian fans could take as they headed for the exits. A poor showing, with everyone, except Sou Yaty and defenders Sok Sovan and Sok Rithy who emerged with their reputations intact, playing under-par, it was hard to see how coach Lee Tae-Hoon could put a positive spin on this result. Without the goalscoring threat of someone like the unselected Khim Borey or Keo Sokngorn, who remained on the bench throughout the game, Cambodia rely too much on their skipper Laboravy and this was one of his quietest and least-inspiring matches. The writing is on the wall for Lee Tae-Hoon with matches against far better opposition than Nepal waiting in the wings.
Cambodia's line-up: Yaty, Raksmey, Dalin, Sovan, Rithy, Phearith (Souhana 57), Sothearath, Chhoeurn, Laboravy, Soksana (PM Udom 80), Pheng (Saray 32). Subs not used: Vichet, Sorphea, Rady, Daravorn, Pancharong, CM Seang, Dina, Veasna, Sokngorn. Bookings: Phearith, Sothearath.
The Nepalese team, who won 1-0. You have to tilt your head slightly (pic Tep Phany)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Crown release 2

Phnom Penh Crown are busy behind the scenes, preparing for the new season, which will begin with the Hun Sen Cup in early January. At the moment, the playing staff are on a well-earned close season break before they return for fitness training in the middle of November and then step up a gear, with two sessions a day, from the start of December. Head coach David Booth and his coaching team have identified changes to the playing squad, despite the club lifting the Metfone C-League championship and finishing as runners-up in the AFC President's Cup last season. Two players who have been released from their contracts with the club are the experienced pairing of San Narith (pictured) and Sun Sovannrithy. Both are former national team players who joined Crown last season and played their part in the club's successful campaign, though ended it with red cards in the AFC President's Cup final in Taiwan. It looks likely they will join Naga Corp, according to reports.

Monday, October 24, 2011

End of the road

After their abject failure at the AFC President's Cup and a disastrous league campaign, Myanmar's Yadanarbon have sacked their French manager, Yoan Girard and replaced him with Brazilian Jose Alves Borges. That is despite Girard guiding the club to a President's Cup victory in 2010, two Myanmar league championships and a Myanmar Cup success in the three years he was at the helm. You are only as good as your last game is the age-old football adage, and in Girard's case, his previous record counted for nothing as his services were dispensed with. Girard coached in France and Morocco as well as with Muangthong in Thailand, before linking up with Yadanarbon. The club have returned to Muangthong for their next coach, with Borges acting as the Thai club's technical director this year after previous coaching success with junior Thai teams and Tobacco Monopoly, who won the Thai title in 2004, and TTM Phichit in the Thai Premier. To spice up their pre-season Yadanarbon have announced that they will undertake a European tour and meet Division 2 clubs in Spain, Italy, Germany and Belgium in June next year. In this season's AFC President's Cup they lost 4-0 to Phnom Penh Crown and then 8-2 to Neftchi, which was simply too much for the club's owners to take. The club eventually finished in 9th spot in the 12-team league championship, which was won by Yangon United. The other team that Phnom Penh Crown faced, and beat, in the group stage of the AFC President's Cup, Neftchi from Kyrgyzstan, finished runners-up in their league title race, with Dordoi-Dynamo reclaiming the trophy they'd won six times in a row before Neftchi's 2010 success.

Roberts pulls no punches

Nepalese national coach Graham Roberts (pictured) was pulling no punches when he was asked for his opinion of the Nepal results from their current Asean tour, which roles into Cambodia this week with a friendly match against the Cambodian U-23 team on Friday 28 October at the Olympic Stadium at 6pm. He simply wasn't satisfield with the 4-0 defeat by the Philippines and a 2-0 loss to the Malaysian Olympic team and is expecting a much improved performance against Cambodia before two final tour games in Thailand. Nepal are on tour in order to prepare for the South Asian Football Federation Cup which will be held in India in December. They will also be hosting the finals of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup in their home country with eight teams competing for the coveted title next March. In qualifying for the finals, Nepal opened up with a 1-0 win over Afghanistan, and although they fell to North Korea by the same score, a goalless draw with Sri Lanka ensured their progress as group runners-up. Cambodia failed to qualify for the finals. Currently ranked at 144 in the FIFA World Rankings, while Cambodia languish at 176, Nepal's steady progress has been enhanced since Graham Roberts took charge at the start of this year. The former Spurs, Rangers, Chelsea and West Brom defender was previously coach with Pakistan before linking up with Nepal. My own memories of Roberts was as a prodigious youngster with Dorchester and Yeovil (a team he later managed) in the Southern League before his career took off on signing for Spurs, with the tough tackling hard man going onto win six caps for England.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking ahead to 2012

Next month's SEA Games will be the main focus for the Cambodian national team, even though it's being played at U-23 age level, until the latter part of next year, 2012, when the qualifiers for the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup will take place. Fortunately, Cambodia didn't have to qualify for the SEA Games, though the 'group of death' in which they've been drawn - which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand - makes it impossible for them to progress. That's a given. After the team return from the SEA Games, there will be a barren international programme until those Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October next year, which will unveil the countries for the finals, two months later, to be held in Malaysia and Thailand. Lee Tae-Hoon was the coach in charge when we failed to qualify for the last finals in October 2010 with Laos and Philippines getting the nod instead. Next year will also see the finals of the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup, the AFC's second-tier of international competition behind the AFC Asian Cup. Cambodia won't be there as earlier this year, we lost out to Maldives, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in the qualifying rounds. The host of the finals will be Nepal in March next year. And of course, there will be no World Cup qualifying matches to look forward to either. So a pretty lifeless few months ahead for the Cambodian national team after the SEA Games, though that's exactly when the football federation and the national coach should be arranging a series of international friendly matches that will test the squad, bring them much-needed practice against higher-standard opposition and boost their confidence ahead of the Suzuki Cup qualifiers. Matches against C-League teams, Korean university teams and a training camp in Vietnam do not cut the mustard, the federation have to be much braver than they have in the past, and start engaging far better opponents for the national team. In the run up to the SEA Games, Malaysia have spent three months in a training camp in Slovakia for example. Or look at Nepal, who Cambodia meet in a friendly game in Phnom Penh on 28 October. They've been preparing for the South Asian Football Federation Cup with an overseas tour of Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia and Thailand. Both countries have been thinking outside the box. Something our football federation are not renowned for. Do I think anything will change? Most likely not, but we can always live in hope.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Incredulous decision

A jubilant Khim Borey after scoring for his country in the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2008
How the heck can the head coach of a national football team go to a major championship without his best striker? But that's exactly what Cambodia's coach Lee Tae-Hoon is planning to do with the SEA Games, held every two years, just around the corner. It's hard enough to understand him at press conferences as it is, but to try and get inside his head with this decision, is simply impossible. Pure and simple, it makes no sense whatsoever. Khim Borey is a proven goalscorer in international football. His record makes that abundantly clear even to the most one-eyed of football analysts. Yet, the inscrutable South Korean coach refuses to be budged and will not be taking the Phnom Penh Crown marksman to the Games in Jakarta. Borey has a pretty impressive CV considering he's only just turned 22 years old. He was the Cambodian League’s Golden Boot winner when he top scored with 18 goals in 2008 as his team finished in 2nd spot in the Cambodian League, and he captained the Army team to a Hun Sen Cup Final success in 2010, against Phnom Penh Crown. On the international scene, Borey made his debut for his country against Syria in the Nehru Cup in 2007, having progressed rapidly in that same year from the national youth team through the Under-23 side to full international. In 2008 he scored five goals in eleven appearances for his country and then registered a rare international hat-trick against Timor Leste in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup qualifiers held in Laos. Born in the village of Kouk Kanhchab in Takeo Province in southern Cambodia, he first came to prominence playing for the Koh Kong provincial team as a sixteen year old, before joining the National Defense Ministry club in 2006. He’d played for the Army boy’s team a couple of years earlier and conveniently lived next door to the Army headquarters in Phnom Penh. Operating primarily as a striker throughout his career, he missed five months of the 2009 season with a persistent ankle injury and in 2010 was regularly used in a deep-lying midfield role by the Army team. Before the start of the 2011 season, Borey joined Phnom Penh Crown but was denied a starting place in the Hun Sen Cup competition by the football federation. At the same time, current Crown coach David Booth, then coach at Thai Premier team Sisaket, took him on a season-long loan to northeast Thailand, where he played ten games in one of the best leagues in Asia before returning to Crown in time to line-up in the club's AFC President's Cup successes in Taiwan last month. Quite simply, Borey has been one of the country's outstanding performers over the last four years, yet Lee Tae-Hoon seems to be the only one that doesn't see it. Pointedly, Borey has more international experience as a player, despite his young age, than Lee has as a national team coach. It's a truly incredulous decision and one which will surely come back to bite the coach on his arse.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Glaring omissions

Sok Sovan (4) heads a goal against Thailand but could miss out on the SEA Games
The 20-man squad for Cambodia's tilt at the SEA Games was published in the Phnom Penh Post today and as the competition is for the U-23 age bracket, the squad almost picks itself, except for a few notable non-selections by the South Korean coach Lee Tae-Hoon. From my point of view, the three most obvious omissions are all from my club, Phnom Penh Crown. Goalkeeper Peng Bunchhay, defender Sok Sovan and striker Khim Borey have all been ignored. All three, on current form, should walk into the squad and the team, but the head coach obviously doesn't agree. Both Bunchhay and Borey have previously played under Lee, and he's messed them about before as well. He knows all about them and obviously doesn't rate them. He left them out of the recent BIDC Cup games. The case of Sovan is different. He played in all three BIDC games and performed well, alongside Sok Rithy in the middle of the defence, so his omission comes as a shock. He's the freshest player in the squad, having played sparingly throughout the season just ended. I'm gutted for him if he doesn't make it, as he deserves to be on the plane to Indonesia. With such a small squad, Cambodia's options are limited so I must confess surprise at four names that appear, keeper Sar Sophea, full-backs Chhin Meang Seang and Samuth Dalin and striker Mat Hasan. None of these four would've made my final twenty. Instead the three I've mentioned above and Army's Oum Kumpheak would walk into the squad. The team have one more friendly to flex their muscles, against visiting Nepal on Friday 28 October at Olympic Stadium before they head to Jakarta to face the might of Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Lee's 20-man SEA Games squad looks like this:
Goalkeepers: Um Vichet, Sou Yaty (both Army), Sar Sophea (Preah Khan Reach).
Defenders; Pheak Rady (Army), Sok Rithy, Lay Raksmey (both PKR), Chhin Meng Seang, Touch Pancharong, Samuth Dalin (all Nat Police).
Midfielders: Chin Chhoeurn, Phuong Soksana (both Army), Prak Mony Udom, Soun Veasna, Tum Saray (all PKR), Chhun Sothearath (BBU), Sos Souhana (Prek Pra).
Forwards: Sok Pheng (Phnom Penh Crown), Khuon Laboravy (PKR), Keo Sokngorn (Samuth Sakhon), Mat Hasan (Prek Pra).
There is, in all probability, changes afoot to the above squad which was most likely submitted a while ago to ensure it met SEA Games eligibility rules - the final squad will show some adjustments. I have it on good authority that Sok Sovan will be included as will Pov Phearith in midfield. Likely casualties will be Chhin Meng Seang and Mat Hasan. Which makes more sense, but we shall wait and see.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It could be murder

Tough luck on Cambodia in the football draw made today for the upcoming SEA Games 2011 in Jakarta, Indonesia. They drew the short-end of the straw and were placed in the toughest possible group, Group A, alongside Thailand, Singapore, current holders Malaysia and hosts Indonesia. The matches start on 3 November, Cambodia open up with a game against the hosts on 9 November, with the main SEA Games competition beginning on 11 November. The only consolation is that they didn't draw Vietnam but it's scant as they were in by far the easier group, alongwith Myanmar, Laos, Philippines, Timor Leste and Brunei. Now if Cambodia had been drawn in that group, they could've conceivably progressed, with a lot of good fortune and refereeing decisions going their way, but as it is, they have no chance. They'll be lucky to get a point in fact. It could be murder. The SEA Games is played at U-23 level and Cambodia have been warming up for it with the BIDC Cup against U-19 national teams. Lining up against the U-23 sides of these four countries will be a different kettle of fish as they are far more experienced and rated a higher standard. I await the final squad selection of coach Lee Tae-Hoon with interest.
Cambodia's SEA Games fixtures:
9 Nov Indonesia v Cambodia : 11 Nov Singapore v Cambodia : 13 Nov Thailand v Cambodia : 15 Nov Malaysia v Cambodia. All matches at the 88,000 capacity Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta.


The Cambodian national squad in chain-pulling mode
Team photographs in Asia, and in particular Cambodia, often make me wince. Here are two examples. The bottom one is a Preah Khan Reach line-up three years ago, which is nothing short of ridiculous and has shaped my view of the PKR team ever since (just kidding). I must admit I'm a traditionalist when it comes to much in football, including the off-the-cuff team photo. I still prefer one knee on the ground for those in the front row but I'm often ignored when I ask for this style. The top photo was one I came across today and I must say, it's one I took an instant dislike to. Who on earth would ask the players to hold their right hand up in the first place - presumably to suggest that the team were ready for action and showing their fighting spirit (though in England it's more akin to pulling a toilet chain) - and what numbskull of a coach agreed for the picture to be taken? I've seen it before by the U-16 national team and it made me wince then, but it was understandable because the boys are young and don't know any better, but to see it from the senior national team just about takes the biscuit.
Preah Khan Reach must've done this for a bet

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pipe-dream for Crown

The word on the street was that an invitation for Cambodia's league champions to play in the AFC Cup next season was on the table, which would've catapulted Cambodia into the next sphere of Asian continental football. Instead, the invitation remained unopened by the Cambodian football federation and because of their lethargy, Myanmar have picked up the baton and look likely to get the nod for 2012. How short-sighted of the FFC. That means Phnom Penh Crown will again take part in the AFC President's Cup, the competition for twelve league champions from countries regarded by the AFC's Vision Asia program as Emerging Nations. This does not take into account the FIFA World Ranking but has everything to do with a country's football competitiveness, professionalism, marketability and the financial status of the league and its clubs. The AFC President's Cup is the third tier of cup competition, the AFC Cup is the second tier lying under the AFC Champions League, which is for Mature Nations and competed for by the top 14 countries in the AFC region. The moniker for the AFC Cup is for Developing Nations, and though the competition has been dominated by west Asian countries since its formation, it certainly includes countries and teams, 32 in all, that would've been exciting to be involved with. The southeast Asian countries include Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Maldives, whilst the west Asian countries are India, Kuwait, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Lebanon, Yemen and Uzbekistan. Myanmar look set to join in that party. In their place, Mongolia have put their hand up to join the AFC President's Cup, with group games tentatively scheduled for the first two weeks of May 2012. The country champions will come from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Chinese Taipei, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Mongolia, if accepted. So for the time being, playing in the AFC Cup will remain a pipe-dream for Phnom Penh Crown.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Booth on the President's Cup

Crown head coach David Booth with his players in Taiwan
Before the news came out today that David Booth will stay with Phnom Penh Crown for another twelve months, following the extension of his contract with the club, I asked David for his views on the AFC President's Cup experience where Crown beat two of the fancied clubs, namely Neftchi (2-1) and Yadanarbon (4-0) before finally succumbing to hosts Taiwan Power Company (3-2) in a somewhat controversial Final. This is what Crown's head coach had to say:
"I was generally pleased with our preparation for the final stages though the rains hampered it a bit. Over time the players improved and showed they were hungry enough for the task ahead. Our preparation in Taiwan was okay until someone decided to be stupid and play mind games the day before the Final. For the opening game against Neftchi, our players were well prepared and it showed in their performance. It was the right result, we played very well in getting behind them on so many occasions as we'd planned; we did our job well and deserved to win. The success bred enthusiasm amongst the players as it was their first win against foreign opponents on foreign soil. For the second game against Yadanarbon, I was quietly surprised and pleased with our performance, we fully deserved our success and it was a very good team effort.

"For the Final, I wasn't happy at all with the preparation, the mind games we experienced were disgraceful and petty, but we just got on with our work. In the game itself, it was the first time we made mistakes and this has to be a future lesson towards gaining consistency. Maybe it was the pressure, as it was new experience for our players, but it shows that if you make mistakes at crucial times, you lose matches. The referee was afraid to make a correct decision at a crucial time and ducked a decision at a point when we had our opponents under severe pressure. As for what happened afterwards, our players should know better and it was a lack of discipline at the wrong time, after all of our good work in the competition beforehand. On the positive side, I was pleased for the players, many of whom were playing at this level of competition for the first time, and I hope it can happen again."

The Crown squad are now taking a well-earned rest until stamina training begins again in mid-November and a full pre-season training programme gets underway at the beginning of December. The Hun Sen Cup is expected to begin in the first week of the New Year with the group stage and that will be the next target for head coach David Booth and his players. In the meantime, it looks like Crown's Sok Sovan and Sok Pheng will have to forget any thoughts of a rest as they were both included in the recent BIDC Cup matches in Phnom Penh and are expected to go with the Cambodian national team to the SEA Games in Indonesia in November.

Booth confirms another 12 months

Crown sign David Booth for another 12 months
Phew...the best news we could've hoped for... David Booth has signed a new 12-month contract to stay on as head coach at Phnom Penh Crown. I know that a gaggle of foreign club sides as well as national teams were sniffing around after David led Crown to the Metfone C-League title and the AFC President's Cup Final over the past couple of months, but David was keen to carry on the job he's begun so well at Crown.
In confirming that he's signed a new extended contract, David said: "I had several options including national teams but it suits me to stay. There was a lot for me to consider but I am happy to stay because of the ambitions and targets that this club has. Now I will have the time and can work with my players on a one-to-one basis and help them better understand the principles of the game. My aim will be to mould a better organized team with more consistency of play, plus the ongoing development of individuals. All of which is vital for the club to progress and move forward from last season's success. As for new faces, I am looking at the availability of players at the moment...though some Cambodian clubs seem to have there own rules and agenda on the movement of players from one club to another."
David arrived at Crown at the end of June after a series of successful club and national team attachments in Africa and Asia over the past twenty years. He then guided Crown to a run of eight consecutive victories and a draw that won the C-League title for the second successive season and
almost captured the AFC President's Cup in a controversial Final in Taiwan. With another twelve months to look forward to, Crown's supporters will be hoping for more of the same under their talismanic head coach.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Top marks to the Burmese

The victorious Myanmar team with their reward, the BIDC Cup
For the 2nd match running, Thet Naing proved to be the match-winner for Myanmar
Well blow me down, Myanmar did it. They beat Thailand 2-1 after extra time in tonight's MRYUIFTBIDC Cup (aka BIDC Cup) and deserved it, just. At the final whistle, their German coach Gerd Zeise expressed his pride at his young team (14 under-19 and six at U-21) and felt they did enough to win, and who's to argue, as his young team went on a lap of honour, hardly believing themselves that they'd won against the tournament favourites. Thailand simply didn't do enough and allowed themselves to be harried and hustled off the ball by the fleet-footed Myanmar players who broke quickly and adopted a shoot on sight policy throughout the game. On twenty minutes, the Burmese youngsters went close three times, posting a warning to the Thai team. But it was the Thai's who drew first blood five minutes before the break when Pakorn Parmpak's inswinging free-kick looked to have found the boot of Wittaya Moonwong though the goal was later awarded to Parmpak himself. Not to be outdone, the Myanmar team repeated the feat, when Ye Ko Oo unleashed a free-kick that travelled all the way through the Thai defence and found Zaw Lin in space at the far post and his touch was true to level the scores three minutes before the interval. In the second period the best opportunities fell to Thailand but Parmpak and then Thitiphan Puangjan both failed to take advantage, and so the game went into extra time. Two more Parmpak chances went begging, one of them hitting the foot of the post, before Myanmar sent their supporters into raptures two minutes into the second half of extra time. A sweet and swift passing move saw Nay Lin Tun send over an inviting low cross which Thet Naing tapped in and went off like a rocket to celebrate. Despite a series of Thailand free-kicks that failed to find the target, the Myanmar skipper David Htan smacked a 25 yard free-kick against the cross-bar and that was it, as the Myanmar team celebrated their unexpected success with hugs and flag-waving, collecting the BIDC Cup (and $20,000) and earned the respect from everyone who watched this tournament. Parmpak picked up the golden boot award but will be kicking himself that he didn't make more of a difference in the final when he had the opportunities.
Myanmar were out to prove a point against their higher-rated opponents
Thailand went into the match as hot favourites, and believed it themselves
Golden Boot award winner with 5 goals, Thailand's Pakorn Parmpak
The Myanmar section of the crowd that kept up the noise level throughout the game
Winning coach Gerd Zeise (left) with FFC President Sao Sokha after the presentations

It's only going to get harder

Khuon Laboravy (11, red) leads out the Cambodian team against Thailand
The final of the MRYUIFTBIDC Cup (aka BIDC Cup) takes place at 4pm this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium between Myanmar and Thailand. The sad point is that Cambodia will be unable to repeat their 2009 success as they failed at the semi-final stage against Thailand on Friday. It wasn't that Thailand gave them a good hiding, far from it, but Cambodia just lacked that inventive spark, that passionate belief that they could overcome their neighbours and with a coach who stuck rigidly to his gameplan even when it was obvious to all that it was failing miserably. The point of the exercise of course, was to get some serious match practice before the upcoming SEA Games in Indonesia. So in that respect, it's been worthwhile but we must also remember that Cambodia entered essentially their SEA Games team into this competition, whilst Thailand, and for that matter, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, played their U-19 teams, who will not be playing at the SEA Games. To state the obvious, Cambodia will find it considerably tougher when they get to Indonesia. I fear the worst unless the coach can pull rabbits out of the hat and find a winning formula which he clearly couldn't do in this competition.
LtoR: Phuong Soksana, Sok Sovan, Sok Rithy, Chhun Sothearath
LtoR: Lay Raksmey, Pov Phearith, Chin Chhoeurn, Tum Saray, Touch Pancharong
LtoR; Khuon Laboravy, Sou Yaty, Lay Raksmey, Pov Phearith
The Cambodian substitutes. LtoR: Vichet, Sokngorn, Rady, Veasna, Souhana, Daravorn, Dalin, PM Udom
The two captains exchange pennants before the kick-off
The Myanmar coach Gerd Zeise explaining his team's semi-final success
The Myanmar players jump for joy after their penalty shoot-out win over Vietnam

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Myanmar glory

The winning Myanmar line-up, who beat Vietnam on penalties
I was hoping for a cracking game when Vietnam faced Myanmar in the 2nd BIDC Cup semi-final last night but I was sadly disappointed and the game was way below my expectation, with Vietnam a shadow of the teams they usually enter into competitions, whilst Myanmar threw a party at the end of the game that would've graced any World Cup Final, let alone the BIDC Cup semi. As you might've guessed, Myanmar won the game, after a penalty shoot-out and boy, did they love beating their old enemy. Goalkeeper Pyaye Phyo Aung was the star, saving two spot-kicks and giving Thet Naing the opportunity for glory, which he took, to send his team through 5-4 on penalties. In normal time, Vietnam led 1-nil at the break when the dangerous Nguyen Xuan Nam raced clear and finished with considerable expertise, something he later failed to repeat at a critical moment. Myanmar equalized just after the hour when skipper David Htan went down in the box, got up, dusted off the mud and whipped the spot-kick straight and true to make it 1-1. Nam thought he'd scored a 2nd when his shot cannoned off the cross-bar and bounced down near the goal-line but the linesman was ten yards behind play and the only outcome was a disappointed Nam, who had only himself to blame for not doing better with a 10-yard golden opportunity with just two minutes remaining. After 90 minutes the game moved straight to penalties instead of extra time and Myanmar netted their first four before missing one, only for Aung to make his second save and leave his teammate, Naing to grab the glory. The players and their supporters went beserk at the final whistle and their celebrations lasted long after everyone else had left the stadium. Goodness knows how they will celebrate if they manage to defeat Thailand in tomorrow's final.
Goalkeeper Pyaye Phyo Aung was less stiff when he saved 2 penalties in the shoot-out
The glory fell to Thet Naing, who converted the winning penalty
Vietnam, who will be pinching themselves that they lost to their lesser local rivals

Cambodia come a cropper

"What's that you say, Laboravy plays out on the left wing?" asks coach Lee Tae-Hoon
Internet problems prevented me bringing you yesterday's results sooner. I'm sorry to report that Cambodia were knocked out of the MRYUIFTBIDC Cup (aka BIDC Cup) yesterday, beaten 2-1 by Thailand in the semi-final stage in front of 25,000 gutted supporters. I have to place the blame for the defeat firmly at the door of the South Korean coach, Lee Tae-Hoon, who started the game with his best player on the wrong side of the pitch, snuffing out his effectiveness and even when it was clear we weren't making any headway, he still refused to change it. He also dallied with his substitutions and one of his most ineffectual players stayed on the pitch until he finally replaced him in injury time. All in all, the coach got it horribly wrong against a Thailand U-19 team who didn't look too hot, but certainly had enough in the tank to deal with the majority of what Cambodia could throw at them. Leaving Khuon Laboravy, his skipper, on the right flank for the whole game was a bewildering decision to be frank. Laboravy tore the Laos defense to pieces in the first game, playing in his usual wide left role. To move him across the pitch, and keep him there for the whole game, nullified his game completely and Cambodia were toothless without his drive. There was no press conference after the game so I wasn't able to put that point to the head coach, so I'm still scratching my head as to why he would make such a foolhardy switch for this important game. The coach also brought Keo Sokngorn into the action on 66 minutes, but if he was fit enough to play 20+ minutes, why didn't he start with him. Sokngorn had Cambodia's best effort of the 2nd half and if he'd started, he could've made a difference. If the coach didn't believe he was 100% fit, he shouldn't even have been on the bench. So to the match itself.

All the goals came in the first 33 minutes of the match. There was a collective groan from the big crowd as Thailand's youngsters took a 4th minute lead. Thitiphan Puangjan jumped in front of keeper Sou Yaty to reach an inswinging corner to give the visitors an early lead. From another set piece, Cambodia levelled it on 8 minutes. Chin Chhoeurn swung a corner kick to beyond the far post where Sok Sovan was waiting, unmarked, and he bent down to head the ball between the upright and the scrambling goalkeeper. It was a simple effort for the youngster's first goal in senior football, which he celebrated by sinking to his knees and accepting the congratulations of his teammates. Honours even until a stroke of bad luck gifted Thailand their second, and match-winning goal. Chayawat Srinawong ghosted behind the backline and his low cross was deflected by Sok Rithy's outstretched foot, which wrong-footed Yaty and he couldn't keep the ball from rolling over the goal-line. Another large collective groan enveloped the stadium. It was a soft goal to concede especially as Thailand didn't show too much going forward, as they got bogged down in the cloying mud. Laboravy whipped in a free-kick that Thai keeper Watchara Buathong held at the 2nd attempt, but that was about it as far as goalmouth activity in the first half.

Thailand upped their efforts after the break with Yaty going low to collect a Srinawong low drive and Touch Pancharong blocking a goal-bound effort from Perapat Notchaiya. Laboravy demonstrated his frustration with a pointless booking for handball before Cambodia were handed a lifeline by referee Nagor Amir Noor from Malaysia, when he whipped out a second yellow card for a petty offence by Thai's Narakorn Kana and reduced the visitors to ten men for the final twenty minutes. It was the boost Cambodia needed, alongwith the introduction of Keo Sokngorn, but they failed to take advantage. The Cambodia coach refused to amend his gameplan and his team struggled to make any impact until a few minutes from the end. Sovan had a second far post header stopped just shy of the goal-line and with a minute on the clock, Sokngorn sent a fizzing shot inches wide, and with it Cambodia's chances of a positive result. Replacing the ineffectual Phuong Soksana with Sok Pheng in time added on just about summed up Lee Tae-Hoon's tactics, which were badly off the mark in this game.
Cambodian line-up: Yaty, Raksmey, Pancharong, Sovan, Rithy, Phearith, Sothearath, Saray (Sokngorn 66), Chhoeurn (PM Udom 77), Soksana (Pheng 91), Laboravy. Subs not used: Vichet, Rady, Daravorn, Dalin, Souhana, Veasna. Bookings: Pancharong, Sothearath, Laboravy.
Myanmar beat Vietnam in the other semi, 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw, so go into Sunday's final against Thailand, whilst Cambodia will lick their wounds and head to the SEA Games, where they will find life considerably tougher.
The Cambodia starting XI who went 2-1 behind after 33 minutes: Back Row LtoR: Laboravy, Sovan, Phearith, Yaty, Soksana, Rithy. Front Row: Chhoeurn, Saray, Pancharong, Raksmey, Sothearath
The Thai U-19 team that sent their older opponents packing and skipped into the Final
The Cambodian players belt out the national anthem before the game
Sok Sovan bites his lip before the game and then scored his 1st goal in senior football after just 8 minutes