Saturday, June 30, 2012

Best possible start

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy boys are overseas again. Well, ten of them are anyway, in Singapore, invited by the organizers to take part in the Singapore Soccer Sizes 2012 tournament, more specifically in the U-14 Charity Cup involving teams from at least seven nations. Yesterday they were in a football clinic with ex-Arsenal star Ray Parlour. This morning they played three games in a mini-group and won all three matches, rather convincingly, to move through to the semi-finals of the cup, which will be played tomorrow (Sun) morning just after 9am. Their results this morning were as follows:
PPCFC 4-0 Hevea MK, Palembang (Indonesia)
PPCFC 6-0 Muhammadiyah Assoc (Singapore)
PPCFC 5-0 Youth Football Home, Phuket (Thailand)
Last year the Crown youngsters did well to finish third in the U-14 competition but they are one year older and wiser this time around and it certainly showed in today's group games. Head coach Bouy Dary is in charge of the boys and sent me the results by sms as the internet connection in the hotel is so poor. I should have more information tomorrow.
Sunday update: This morning the Academy boys continued their winning way in the semi-final meeting with Rumah Faith Home from Malaysia. A 6-0 win puts the Academy through to this afternoon's final, where they will meet Bali Sports Foundation from Indonesia, who were last year's champions. So far so good, four matches, 21 goals scored and none conceded.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

China success

The Cambodian U-22 national team found the going too tough again this afternoon, failing 3-0 against the China U-22s in Vientiane, Laos in their qualifying encounter in the AFC U-22 Asian Cup. Two goals either side of the half-hour mark gave Cambodia a mountain to climb against their better-on-the-day opponents, who netted again near the end of the game to seal their third straight qualifying win to lead the Group F table. Cambodia now meet North Korea on Saturday, who beat Hong Kong 1-nil this afternoon.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Restoring normality

With confidence on the rise after beating Hong Kong and fans back home clamouring for a first-ever win against the Thais, the Cambodian U-22 team went into yesterday's second match in the AFC U-22 Asian Cup qualifiers with more hope than usual. Sadly, a 4-0 reversal to the Thailand U-22s in the Laos capital of Vientiane sent hopes and dreams crashing and restored some semblance of normality. Quite simply, the Thais were too strong and scored twice around the half-hour mark, then finished the job with two goals in the last twenty minutes. Sok Sovan and Chea Samnang were left out of the starting line-up but will likely return for the next match, on Thursday, against group leaders China, who brushed aside Hong Kong 5-1. North Korea overcame the hosts, Laos 2-1. So its back to the drawing board for Prak Sokmony to lift his team ahead of their toughest task, with matches against North Korea (Saturday) and Laos (Tuesday) to follow. I must admit the defeat against the Thais came as no surprise.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Who will host?

The Spartak Stadium in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Dushanbe's Central Stadium in Tajikistan

The National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh
The three stadiums under consideration to hold the 2012 AFC President's Cup final stage in September are in the country capitals of Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) and Dushanbe (Tajikistan).
The National Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh, home to Cambodia's champions Phnom Penh Crown, has a capacity of around 50,000. Cambodia is the only country of the three bidders, not to have hosted the final stages before. The stadium played a small part in the 1966 World Cup when North Korea faced Australia twice in qualifying, as Cambodia was deemed a suitable neutral location. The matches attracted 40,000 fans with North Korea winning both games. They went onto reach the quarter-finals.
The Spartak Stadium in Bishkek has a capacity of 23,000 and is home to Dordoi, the Kyrgyzstan champions. In 2008 the home team met Regar-TadAZ from Tajikistan in the AFC President's Cup final at the Spartak Stadium in front of 10,000 fans. The home team lost on penalties.
Tajikstan's capital city is Dushanbe, their champions are FC Istiklol and the capacity of their Central Stadium is 22,000. Tajikistan have hosted the AFC President's Cup final before, in 2009, in the city of Tursunzoda at the Mettalurg Stadium, as the home team were Regar-TadAZ. They again defeated Dordoi in the final 2-0 in front of 10,000 spectators. The AFC Competitions Committee will decide the hosts in July.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A dream start

The Cambodian u-22 team will be drinking in the sweet smell of success this morning after opening their AFC U-22 Asian Cup qualifying with a 3-2 victory over Hong Kong U-22s yesterday afternoon. Their win will give them renewed confidence to face Thailand on Monday in their next game, especially with the Thais suffering a 4-2 defeat by North Korea. Prak Sokmony's youngsters opened the scoring on ten minutes through Sos Suhana before Hong Kong drew level five minutes after the break. Two quick-fire goals from Phoung Soksana and Nen Sothearoth midway through the second half put Cambodia in the driving seat with a very late consolation from their opponents making it 3-2, in front of 200 spectators. Defender Sok Sovan was hospitalised after he collapsed on 54 minutes after getting an elbow to the head, but was later released to join his colleagues at their hotel to celebrate their unexpected success. In the other Group F match, China scored twice in the 1st half to defeat the hosts, Laos.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

"We played beautiful football"

Bouy Dary, head coach of Cambodia's U-14 national team

I caught up with Bouy Dary this week to look back at his experiences as the Cambodia U-14 head coach and his team of promising youngsters, who returned recently from the AFC U-14 Festival of Football, impressing many with their style of play, their positive attitude and their sportsmanship throughout the tournament, which took place in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia earlier this month. In their nine matches, Cambodia drew three and lost six of their games, in what Dary described as a very promising series of performances against such nations as Australia, Thailand and Vietnam. The AFC themselves do not release the results of the games played at the Festival. They prefer to keep the competitive edge out of the Festival and to concentrate more on the teamwork, friendship and sportsmanship elements of the 12-nation tournament.
"I couldn't ask any more from my boys," said Dary. "We surprised everyone with our style of play. We played beautiful, passing football, all of the players have improved and they proved they could play at the highest level that their age allows. The two teams that I selected were of equal ability, everyone followed the style of play we set out for them. I must single out Long Phearath, who was fantastic. He was quite outstanding, especially against the bigger boys, as was Mat Nuron. But everyone played their part, it was a real team effort.
The boys have learnt so much. They were exposed to the culture of the different people they met from so many countries. They have learned a lot from the games they played and how to adapt their own game to different opposition. They learned from the AFC green card system of fair play and sportsmanship. Many of the boys had never flown before, but they followed our plan and were able to adapt to all the new experiences they faced quickly and easily. Personally, I took on board what the AFC were keen to promote, that the development of the boys at this age is more important than winning. I also gained a good insight and understanding into how other countries operate, which is important for us to learn from other nations.
We played good football in each match and we played fair. I am proud of the way the team performed on and off the field. Absolutely no problems. As a coaching team we also worked really hard and I can say it was a successful experience for all concerned. We were fit, our recovery was good but when we played against some of the teams like Vietnam and Thailand, they were very big by comparison and that made it hard, particularly in the attacking and defending thirds. I'm not sure about the ages of the teams we played, it's not an excuse but I looked at the teams on and off the field and many of them acted far older than their age and their attitude was very different. We held our own in most of the matches but some of the teams played the long ball and used their superior height to best advantage.
Cambodian boys are physically smaller at this age, it's all down to their background and their diet. You can see that in some of the boys who come from a good stable background, they are physically stronger. We need to work on their balance, improve their strength, their body weight and I believe they will be ready at sixteen or seventeen. I feel confident that if we look after our young players, get them good accommodation, the right food and diet and play games against good foreign opposition over the next two years, that we will improve and be in a position to win games at the U-16 level of competition. These teams are not better than us, many of our boys are already tactically and technically better, but we must look after them. It's so important. I talk to the boys a lot to encourage them, as a team and individually. They must work hard to improve and show their commitment, but now they know what the other teams are like and they can see for themselves there is no difference. That will give them great encouragement. We need to keep this group together for the next two years and I hope the Football Federation will help me to do this."
Bouy Dary is also the head coach of the Phnom Penh Crown Academy, who supplied 17 of the 22-strong squad that the Cambodia U-14s took to the AFC Festival.
Bouy Dary working with his U-14 national team squad

The bare facts

Soon to depart, Lee Tae-Hoon
The departure of Lee Tae-Hoon as the head coach of the Cambodian national football is pending, though I'm not sure why he hasn't left already as the senior team have not had a match since their World Cup debacle in Laos in July of last year, and he was overlooked as the coach of the U-22 team that open their AFC Asian Cup account later today. As football is a results-driven sport, let's take a look at Lee Tae-Hoon's twenty-one months in charge of the Cambodian team, following his arrival in August 2010, through the results his teams achieved. In competitive football, his selections played 21 matches, winning four times, drawing three and losing 14 games. They scored 29 goals and conceded 54. The competitions included the AFF Suzuki Cup, AFC Challenge Cup, FIFA World Cup, Mekong BIDC Cup, SEA Games and the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy. His teams also played what could be classed as serious friendly matches. In these, his record was played 8, won 1, drawn 1 and lost six, scoring 6 goals and conceding 16. I haven't included the results of  another 15+ matches which his teams played against Metfone C-League clubs as warm-up games. Obviously, results don't tell the whole story, and I have covered in depth in many previous posts about my thoughts on his selections, his tactics and his results. I won't go over old ground again. Suffice to say I wasn't his greatest fan and really felt that he lost the plot when he gave such scant importance to our World Cup qualifying ambitions last year. That was simply inexcusable. Here are the results in black and white:

Competition Results:
22 Oct 2010 v Laos (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Drew 0-0
24 Oct 2010 v Timor Leste (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Won 4-2 Borey 3, Sinoun
26 Oct 2010 v Philippines (AFF Suzuki Cup) Away. Drew 0-0
9 Feb 2011 v Macau (AFC Challenge Cup Qual) Home. Won 3-1 El Nasa 2, Laboravy
16 Feb 2011 v Macau (AFC Challenge Cup Qual) Away. Lost 2-3 Borey, El Nasa
21 Mar 2011 v Maldives (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 0-4
23 Mar 2011 v Tajikistan (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 0-3
25 Mar 2011 v Kyrgyzstan (AFC Challenge Cup) Away. Lost 3-4 Sokumpheak, Rithy
29 Jun 2011 v Laos (World Cup Qual) Home. Won 4-2 Laboravy, El Nasa 2, Sokumpheak
3 Jul 2011 v Laos (World Cup Qual) Away. Lost 2-6 aet Chhoeun, Sokumpheak
9 Oct 2011 v Laos (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Won 2-0 Soksana, Laboravy
12 Oct 2011 v Myanmar (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Drew 2-2 Udom pen, Saray
14 Oct 2011 v Thailand (Mekong BIDC Cup) Home. Lost 1-2 Sovan
7 Nov 2011 v Indonesia (SEA Games) Away. Lost 0-6
9 Nov 2011 v Singapore (SEA Games) Away. Lost 1-2 Chhoeun
11 Nov 2011 v Thailand (SEA Games) Away. Lost 0-4
13 Nov 2011 v Malaysia (SEA Games) Away. Lost 1-4 Chhoeun
25 Feb 2012 v Brunei (Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy) Away. Lost 2-3 Udom pen, Vathanaka
27 Feb 2012 v Vietnam (HBT) Away. Lost 1-2 Vathanak
29 Feb 2012 v Timor Leste (HBT) Away. Lost 0-1
5 Mar 2012 v Malaysia (HBT) Away. Lost 1-3 Sothearath
Record: Pld 21 Won 4 Drew 3 Lost 14 Goals For 29 Agst 54

18 Sep 2010 v Vietnam U-23 Away. Lost 0-2
21 Sep 2010 v Vietnam U-23 Away. Lost 0-3
5 Dec 2010 v Ulsan University Home. Lost 1-4 own goal
7 Jun 2011 v Malaysia Olympic XI Home. Won 1-0 Laboravy
28 Oct 2011 v Nepal U-23 Home. Lost 0-1
14 Jan 2012 v Malaysia U-23 Home. Lost 0-1
27 Jan 2012 v Ulsan University Home. Drew 3-3 Vathanaka, Chhoeun, S Udom
29 Jan 2012 v Ulsan University Home. Lost 1-2 Vathanaka
Record: Pld 8 Won 1 Drew 1 Lost 6 Goals For 6 Agst 16

Friday, June 22, 2012

Up for the cup

Three countries in collaboration with their league champion clubs from Cambodia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have registered their interest to organise the finals of the AFC President’s Cup to be held in September. President's Cup finalists Phnom Penh Crown, Istiklol and Dordoi are in the race to win the rights to host the AFC President's Cup finals, the third tier of AFC club football in Asia. Palestine’s debutant Al Amma’ri, Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) of Pakistan and defending champions Taiwan Power Company make up the numbers in the final to be played amongst six clubs in a league-cum-knockout format, with the top two sides playing in the final.
The AFC will carry out inspection visits to all the three interested bidders before the AFC Competitions Committee meeting in July gives the final verdict on the hosts of the 2012 edition of the cup, which started back in 2005. Dordoi, the two-time winners of the competition, topped Group B ahead of Phnom Penh Crown in May’s qualifying round held in Phnom Penh, while Istiklol won the qualifiers leaving Palestine debutants Al Amma’ri in 2nd place when they hosted Group C in the qualifiers held in May 2012. Defending champions Taiwan Power Company won both their matches in Group A to qualify ahead of KRL.

Fixture changes, again

Blow me down, the football federation have gone and done it again. They've dabbled once more with the fixture list for the second half of the Metfone C-League for some spurious reason that the Police team will be involved in some cup tournament in Vietnam. No details, just that it's a done deal. So now, Phnom Penh Crown will begin a few days earlier than expected on Saturday 7 July and will face Preah Khan Reach, rather than playing them in the final domestic encounter of the regular season. I have never known a football federation in any country make sweeping changes to the fixtures during the season, unless there has been a series of postponements due to bad weather. In the case of Cambodia, they had to amend a bunch of games because they forgot that the U-22 national team were playing in the AFC U-22 Cup, which was careless in the extreme, and now they have altered most teams fixtures again, because they've belatedly found out the Police will be playing away. Presumably they will not change the dates of the play-offs, but frankly, no-one has any idea what they will do next. They certainly have no idea.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

U-22s on their way

The Cambodian U-22 squad just before departure for Laos
The Cambodian U-22 squad pose for an undated photo, most likely taken in the last day or so, before they depart for the AFC U-22 Asian Cup qualifying matches in Laos. It was published on facebook rather than through any official channel and there's only twenty players, so presumably the squad has been reduced. Or two of the players were stuck in the loo. The ones absent from the photo-call are Um Vichet and Ke Vannak, both Army players. And yes, there are no less than five coaches and a physio on the front seats. There's been no official announcement of the squad or their schedule before the games kick-off this coming Saturday when Cambodia meet Hong Kong. Below are the U-22s fixtures, in which I expect them to struggle, despite their morale-boosting 5-1 success against the Philippines recently. Tournament qualifiers are a far different kettle of fish especially when you are meeting the likes of China, Korea and Thailand. They will take no prisoners.

  • Sat 23 June: Hong Kong v Cambodia
  • Mon 25 June: Thailand v Cambodia
  • Thu 28 June: Cambodia v China PR
  • Sat 30 June: Cambodia v Korea DPR
  • Tue 3 July: Laos v Cambodia

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mind the dog-shit

It's that time of year again when I get intensely annoyed that this player or that player is playing for a university team in the local educational institutions cup competition in Cambodia. I think it's called the National Football Championships and involves 24 teams from higher educational institutions, technical colleges and provincial teacher training centers. I'm told it starts this week. I've written about this before, and here's what I've said previously. What we have is the ridiculous situation that a lot of the country's very best players, even those in the Cambodian national team, are turning out in mickey mouse games for various university teams, risking injury and tiredness, playing on ill-kept pitches covered in dog-shit, etc, in the middle of the C-League season. I am gob-smacked that this is allowed to happen. I believe it's tied to getting a scholarship to study at a particular university. However, the idea of contracted professionals essentially being forced to represent their university, or else they may lose their study place, is nonsensical in the extreme to anyone that has an inkling of what professional sport is all about. In my view, this has got to stop, players must not be forced to play these farcical matches or else it will continue to devalue the sport and their own professional league. Players on contracts can play for their club and their national teams and that's it. They can't go down the park and play with their mates, they can't play in futsal competitions and they can't play for PUC against AEU, or whatever these university teams are called. If the question is about funding the individual's further education, then that is something he should build-in as part of his professional contract, or pay the university study fees himself. Both the clubs and the football federation have got to be much stronger on this. Bottom line, no contracted player should be allowed to do it. This is a perfect example of where Cambodian football needs to step up into a new era of professionalism.

Monday, June 18, 2012

All square

National Police drop down to 2nd place after a 1-1 draw
The opening match in yesterday's final day of the Metfone C-League programme for the next three weeks, saw longtime leaders National Police lose ground by only drawing 1-1 with the Rubbermen of Boeung Ket. BK keeper Peng Bunchhay was at full stretch to make two saves early doors before National Police opened the scoring with five minutes of the first half left to play. Top scorer Nelson Oladiji had the simplest of tasks to score from a yard out after Srey Udom headed on Sim Vutha's inswinging free-kick. It was pretty much even-steven throughout and Boeung Ket finally levelled on 71 minutes when Friday Nwakuna's pull-back gave Sumaila Momoh the space to jig his way through the back-line and score with a composed finish. Soon after Keo Sokngorn had two chances to secure the win for the Kompong Cham-based club but fluffed them both, to see the game out at 1-1. Preah Khan Reach have now taken over top spot in the table, with Police a point behind and Boeung Ket in 4th.
Boeung Ket came from behind to draw 1-1 with National Police

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pre-match snaps

Captain Tieng Tiny and debutant Samrith Seiha, with Odion Obadin
More photos from this afternoon's Phnom Penh Crown match with Western University, in which Crown ran out convincing 5-0 winners and moved into fifth spot in the Metfone C-League table. Western Uni remain rooted firmly to the bottom spot.
Tieng Tiny leads out the PPCFC team in red

Referee Neang Sorithya tosses with the two captains

A peek inside the Crown dressing room before kick-off with coach David Booth and his players

The Western Uni line-up that succumbed 5-0 v PPCFC

Crown coast

PPCFC v Western Uni. Back Row LtoR: Njoku, Rady, Dara, Obadin, Frimpong, Tiny. Front: Suhana, Sovanna, Chaya, Seiha, Borey

Phnom Penh Crown were expected to win with an avalanche of goals this afternoon, as they faced the Metfone C-League's bottom club, Western University in the late kick-off at Olympic Stadium. The expected glut of goals looked probable with Crown leading 3-nil within thirty minutes of the start, but the goal-feast failed to materialize and a 5-0 victory at the final whistle is the minimum that Crown supporters will be happy with. Inside the first ten minutes, chances came and went for Crown as Chan Chaya and Kingsley Njoku fluffed good openings and when Njoku did smack the ball into the net, he was flagged offside after Emmanuel Frimpong's deflected free-kick came back off the goalkeeper. On 16 minutes, a Njoku effort did finally count, as he fired his drive across Western keeper Ngoy Boranoch and into the far corner after good approach play from Pheak Rady, Sos Suhahan and Chaya. Crown made it two just four minutes later as Western failed to deal with a free-kick into their area and University defender Chan Vannak mis-cued his clearance straight to Khim Borey, who simply couldn't miss from six yards out. A minute before the half-hour and captain for the day, Tieng Tiny moved upfield, took a pass from Njoku and showed his strikers how to finish with a neat low drive into the far corner for goal number three. As the first-half came to a close, Crown's Odion Obadin headed powerfully over the bar from close-in and Chhun Sovanna sent a 25-yard drive inches wide.

Two headed attempts by Khim Borey at the start of the 2nd half signalled a similar story to the first period, with Crown well on top but lacking that bit of quality in the final third. Sos Suhana should've done better when he played a one-two with Borey and with only the keeper to beat, blasted his shot over the cross-bar. Njoku raced away but sent his drive the wrong side of the post as Crown made two substitutions just before the hour mark. One of the new faces, Hong Pheng then showed the University defence a clean pair of heels and finished with a low drive on 64 minutes to put his team four goals in front. Fellow new arrival Sok Pheng had a drive well held by Boranoch and seconds later ballooned a simple chance miles over the bar. Crown were still on the hunt for goals and got a fifth just three minutes from the end of normal time. Tiny sent a searching ball over the top of the University defence with Suhana racing clear, before playing a one-two with Sok Pheng and finishing with ease, much as he did for the Cambodian U-22s in midweek. Late on Sok Pheng was unlucky to see his drive rebound off the woodwork, and Suhana was denied by Boranoch, while Tiny was on hand to snuff out the danger when Pong Sambo managed to elude Samrith Seiha in the Crown goal. The former Army keeper had a quiet debut for Crown and was a virtual spectator for most of the match. Game over and a 5-0 win for Crown that takes them into fifth spot with sixteen points from 11 matches.
PPCFC line-up v Western:  Seiha, Dara, Rady, Tiny, Obadin, Sovanna, Frimpong (Sothy), Borey, Chaya (S Pheng), Njoku (H Pheng), Suhana. Subs not used: Ary, Srin, Da, Vanthan, Sovan, Lika, Sophanal, Makara. Bookings: Dara.

Tigerish Crown

1st half starters for PPCFC. Back LtoR: Piphop, Sodavid, Samnang, Chanpolin, Baraing, Sovann. Front: Ponvuthy, Phearath, Muslim, Chansopheak, Rozak.
Honours were even at the end of an enthralling youth game this morning as the Phnom Penh Crown U-14 Academy team met their older and stronger opponents from Preah Khan Reach's U-16 squad at RSN Stadium. With a two year advantage, the PKR team easily towered over most of the Crown youngsters and used their height and weight advantage to try to knock the Academy off their game. It didn't work. Crown stuck to their game-plan of quick incisive passing and frustrated their opponents by retaining possession and tackling tigerishly when they didn't have it. Playing three halves of thirty minutes each, Crown had the pick of the opening session, with Ken Chansopheak and Yeu Muslim bringing out good saves from the PKR goalkeeper. With much of the game being played in the middle third, chances were at a premium until halfway through the third period. Svang Samnang made a good save in the Crown goal but from the resultant corner, PKR scrambled the ball over the line to open the scoring. Undeterred, Crown pushed forward and with just five minutes remaining, Orn Chanpolin and Chhuot Senteang combined to feed Long Phearath and his accurate left foot drive found the bottom corner for the leveller. And that's how it stayed, 1-1. An excellent game for the football purists with PKR playing their part but they were unable to quell the enthusiasm and battling qualities of the Crown Academy youngsters.
2nd half starters for PPCFC. Back Row LtoR; Sovann, Sakrovy, Chanpolin, Titchhy, S Samnang, Senteang. Front: K Chhaya, Chanchav, Neout, T Chhaya, V Samnang.

Chhuot Senteang lines up a shot on goal

Cam I have a rest please coach? Pov Ponvuthy in deep contemplation

Yue Muslim hangs on the coach's every word

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Kirivong shocker

Ek Sopheap's two late goals gave Kirivong a 3-1 success v Army
The Army suffered a surprise defeat in this afternoon's Metfone C-League matches at Olympic Stadium, whilst Preah Khan Reach just about managed to scrape a win in the later game. The Army, with six of Cambodia's U-22 squad starting against Kirivong, simply didn't make their superiority count when it mattered, after taking a half-hour lead through Meak Chhordaravuth's arrow header at the far post. Both keepers made good saves but the Army dominated possession without creating enough chances. They were made to pay when Mohamed Zaky scored an identical header on 70 minutes to equalise and with their tails up, Kirivong pressed home their advantage. New face Ek Sopheap proved to be the Kirivong hero with two goals in two minutes, at the very end of normal time. He slammed his first goal past Sou Yaty from ten yards out and then broke clear from the half-way line, kept his nerve and finished calmly to give his team a rare success.
In the 2nd match, Preah Khan Reach would've expected to steam-roller Chhlam Samuth from the kick-off but it never quite worked out like that. In fact the team languishing in one of the two relegation places were bolstered by no less than seven new signings and it showed, as their grit and determination blunted the PKR strikeforce, who boasted Khuon Laboravy and new face Olawale Bologun. PKR's class told in the end but they can't be happy with only Nen Sothearoth's goal separating the two teams. It came on 72 minutes and carried a stroke of good fortune as his cross caught the wind and sailed into the top corner via the gloves of new keeper Hong Ly. With a few minutes remaining, Chhlam Samuth's skipper Sunday Ayodele looked to have worked a shock leveller but after taking it around keeper Sar Sophea, he inexplicably chose to pass to a teammate instead of smashing the ball home, and the chance was gone. The last two matches to be played tomorrow, before a 3-week break in the league programme, see Boeung Ket take on the season's surprise package National Police, whilst Phnom Penh Crown need a win over bottom club Western Uni to kick-start their revival.
Kirivong ran out 3-1 winners v Army

The Army failed to capitalize on their possession and lost

Preah Khan were unconvincing in their 1-nil success

Chhlam Samuth will feel happy with 70 minutes before going down 1-0

Looking ahead

After this weekend's Metfone C-League matches have been completed, the league competition will take another mini-break, hot on the heels of the mid-season pause. The reason is that 22 of the country's brightest prospects will be winging their way to Laos to take part in the brand new AFC U-22 Asian Cup with the Cambodian U-22 national team, under head coach Prak Sokmony. Initially the C-League authorities had ignored this new competition when they formulated their fixture list, but they've had a re-think and have now left a gap in the domestic fixtures which will begin after Sunday's matches and will last until they re-start on Wednesday 11 July. The squad for the U-22s has been announced and were involved in this week's 5-1 success over the touring Philippines U-22s, which has put the Cambodians in good heart for their first match in the Asian Cup next Saturday, 23 June against Hong Kong. Their fixtures in the cup are as follows:
  • Sat 23 June: Hong Kong v Cambodia
  • Mon 25 June: Thailand v Cambodia
  • Thu 28 June: Cambodia v China PR
  • Sat 30 June: Cambodia v Korea DPR
  • Tue 3 July: Laos v Cambodia
The 22-strong squad chosen by Prak Sokmony is as follows:
Sou Yaty, Um Vichet, Sar Sophea, Touch Pancharong, Nen Sothearoth, Khiev Vibol, Ol Ravy, Sok Sovan, Ke Vannak, Khek Khemarin, Sob Ravy, Moul Daravorn, Chea Samnang, Soun Veasna, Pov Phearith, Tith Dina, Chhin Chhoeun, Heng Sokly, Keo Sokngorn, Sos Suhana, Phoung Soksana, Tum Saray.
7 of the players are with the Army team, six with Preah Khan Reach and the others are split between National Police, Phnom Penh Crown, Boeung Ket and BBU. It's pretty much a squad that picks itself. Midfield is perhaps its strongest area whilst in attack, the absence of a consistent out-n-out goalscorer could be their undoing, though there are plenty of players able to chip in with a goal or two, as Sos Suhana showed on Wednesday. Defensively is where I would pose the most question marks, especially against the high standard of opposition they will encounter in the likes of China, Korea and Thailand. Those countries will be taking the competition very seriously and must be amongst the favourites to go all the way. There are nine defenders in the squad and Sokmony will need to work some magic to select the best four to cope with the tough matches ahead. Fortunately he is blessed with three good goalkeepers as a last line of defence. We await the competition with great interest.

Friday, June 15, 2012

End this practice

If you have read my blog before, you will know of my disgust at age-cheating in football, particularly in Asia. Make no bones about it (pun intended), it has been rife for many years in Southeast Asian football, both inside and outside of Cambodia. However, the Asian Football Confederation alongwith with FIFA have been instrumental in highlighting the need to ensure overage players are identified wherever possible and the cheating stopped. This is best achieved at the U-16 age-group level. The AFC Medical Committee chairman commented at a recent seminar: “With the introduction of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) for age determination at AFC U-16 tournaments, the fielding of overage players has virtually come to a halt. This was a chronic problem that went unabated for years marring the image of the sport. A general consensus of introducing 3-D imaging of the growth plate of the radial bone may also take the assessment to the next level, a procedure that never has been done before."
MRI for age determination is specific to U-16 tournaments and the process cannot be applied to other tournaments or female players. At the AFC level, MRI scanning is solely to determine whether the player is either above or below the age of 16 years based on the fusion of the growth plate of the radial bone of the wrist. Eight players were banned at the 2010 AFC U-16 finals after being exposed by the tests. The desire to stop any unfair advantage due to a greater physical maturity compared to players of the proper age must be adhered to by each country's football association before players are selected for tournaments. This has not been the case in the past. Passports and documentation have been adjusted to allow overage players to compete. This has got to stop and every country association must root out and end this practice.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

New minimalist design

U-22s national jersey, June 2012 edition
The Cambodian U-22 team met with the Philippines yesterday sporting a new strip. In fact the playing kit is never the same for any two games on the trot that I can recall. Perhaps the contract with the old kit supplier, Jako with the big red winking tomato plastered across the shirt has been thrown out with the dishwater (and the exit of the Korean coach). The new strip, which incorporates the most minimal of design elements and no sponsorship, is presumably the one which the U-22s will wear in the upcoming Asian Cup. It's produced by the leading Thailand-based FBT sportswear company, who are the market leaders next door but the chosen design doesn't exactly set the world alight, does it. It didn't even carry the players names on the back of the shirt, just to ease identification. Even the country badge, showing the towers of Angkor Wart, is a slightly different design. Anyhow, it's not the shirt but what is in it that really matters come the AFC U-22 Asian Cup in Laos in nine days time.
National team jersey, June 2011 edition

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Breathing confidence

Coach Prak Sokmony is interviewed before the match
More photos from this afternoon's 5-1 Cambodian U-22s success over the visiting Philippines U-22s, which has breathed confidence into the team and the Cambodian fans judging by comments on Facebook, though that really needs to be tempered by the quality of the opposition, who were beaten 9-1 by Thailand a few days ago. Still it's a positive step forward for the Cambodian youngsters, after the last twenty months or so of utter mediocrity and worse under the South Korean coach. Responsibility for the U-22s was given instead to Prak Sokmony and he's been working with his squad, playing matches against a few C-League teams (versus Naga won 3-2, Nat Police drew 1-1, Boeung Ket drew 2-2, BBU drew 1-1) and then a stint in Vietnam (where they drew 0-0 v Saigon FC) before today's game. All leading towards the AFC U-22 Asian Cup that will kick-off in Laos in ten days time. The Cambodian U-22s fixtures are as follows and their toughest matches look to be against Thailand, China and Korea:
  • Sat 23 June: Hong Kong v Cambodia
  • Mon 25 June: Thailand v Cambodia
  • Thu 28 June: Cambodia v China PR
  • Sat 30 June: Cambodia v Korea DPR
  • Tue 3 July: Laos v Cambodia
The spokesman for the Cambodian federation had this to say about the upcoming qualifying competition for the 2013 finals. "The U22 Asian Cup is a brand new AFC concept. It is crucial that we perform well in Laos. This age group represents the nucleus for our future competitions like the AFF Suzuki Cup and beyond." Though a successful tournament would be great for Cambodian football after such a spell in the doldrums, the opposition will be tough and even Hong Kong and Laos will be considerably better opposition than the Philippines. The Suzuki Cup - which will be played in October - is at senior international level so the federation spokesman seems to be disregarding many of the over-22 players who would literally walk into a senior team squad ahead of many of this U-22 squad.
Captain Keo Sokngorn leads out the Cambodia team

The players enter the pitch before the game

The Cambodian team sing their national anthem

The substitutes stand for the national anthem

The Philippines U-22 starting XI

The captains exchange handshakes

In the middle is Sos Suhana (13), scorer of the first two goals flanked by Soun Veasna and Chea Samnang

Walkover win

The starting line-up for Cambodia's U-22s today. Back LtoR: Khemarin, Vibol, Sovan, Yaty, Soksana, Sokngorn (capt). Front: Chhoeun, Veasna, Suhana, Samnang, Pancharong. Click to enlarge.
The Cambodian U-22 squad made sure of a confidence-boosting virtual walkover win against their Philippines counterparts this afternoon, running out comprehensive 5-1 victors in a build-up friendly ahead of the upcoming Asian U-22 Cup. It was all Cambodia from the kick-off and it took just 43 seconds for PPCFC's Sos Suhana to stroke home the first goal. Chhin Chhoeun put over a cross which Keo Sokngorn failed to convert but Suhana was on hand to poke home a close range effort, much to the crowd's delight. It was the perfect way to settle any nerves for the Khmer team. A well-timed run by Suhana was picked out by Sokngorn on 13 minutes and the lively Crown star, playing just off the front man in this game, slotted the ball under the keeper for his second goal. Cambodia continued to dominate possession with the visitors finding it impossible to keep the ball but there were no more goals in the 1st half. Six minutes into the second half and Phoung Soksana poked the ball into the corner from Chhoeun's pass and was promptly replaced, with a big smile on his face, having put his side 3-nil ahead. Twice Suhana could've netted a hat-trick goal but twice he failed to provide the finish that his non-stop movement deserved. With both teams making a flurry of substitutions, Pov Phearith's shot rebounded off the foot of the post and skipper Keo Sokngorn was on hand to turn the ball in for number four twelve minutes from time. Nen Sothearoth blotted his copybook with a needless pull on Jose Porteria in a rare Philippines attack and the same player netted easily from the penalty spot with five minute to go. There was still time for Heng Sokly, put through by Phearith, to fire straight and true to give the Cambodian U-22's a walkover 5-1 success, in the final minute. It was a good performance from the off by Prak Sokmony's young team, they were too strong for the visitors, who look destined for a few high turnovers at the forthcoming U-22 championships. On the other hand it's difficult to assess the Cambodian chances in a very tough group in the same competition from this sole showing, but they couldn't have signed-off any better than they did today. Okay, it would've been nice to score a few more goals and there were still a few individuals who can sharpen up their game, in particular Soksana and Chhoeun, but overall the crowd went home happy, and so did the team.
Cambodia U-22s line-up: Yaty, Pancharong (Sothearoth 52), Vibol (O Ravy 68), Sovan (Vannak 78), Khemarin (S Ravy 89), Samnang (Daravorn 82), Veasna (Phearith 61), Chhoeun (Sokly 75), Sokngorn, Suhana, Soksana (Saray 52). Subs not used: Vichet, Sophea, Dina,

Monday, June 11, 2012

C-League round-up

After the Phnom Penh Crown game on Saturday I headed off to the provinces so missed the remaining Metfone C-League matches at the weekend. National Police's 1-1 draw with Crown allowed NagaCorp to catch them up on Sunday afternoon and Naga now lead the league table on goal difference of +4. They came out on top, winning 3-0 against the Rubbermen of Boeung Ket who wilted under goals from Choun Chum (2) and Teab Vathanak. That leaves Chum at the top of the scorers chart with 13 goals. The Army and Chhlam Samuth played out a see-saw 3-3 draw with George Bisan netting twice and Sunday Ayodele scoring for the Navy team, with Army responding through Phlong Chanthou, Khek Khemarin and Pov Phearith. The 2nd match on Saturday went the way of Preah Khan, who scored all six goals in the 2nd half against 10-man Western Uni, after Maxwell Woko was dismissed before half-time. PKR shared the goals around with Tum Saray, Sok Chanraksmey, David Njoku, two from Khuon Laboravy and a last minute effort from Olawale Bologun. The midweek action this Wednesday sees the Cambodian U-22's meet their Philippines counterparts in a friendly game at Olympic Stadium at 4.30pm. Next weekend's C-League matches: Saturday - Kirivong v Army; Chhlam Samuth v Preah Khan: Sunday - Boeung Ket v Nat Police; PPCFC v Western Uni.

I hear that the Cambodian Football Federation and their friends from Metfone officially penned their continued sponsorship deal today, worth US$1.5million to the FFC over the next three years, starting in 2013. Metfone, a Vietnamese telecoms giant, have sponsored the Cambodian Premier League for the last three years to the tune of the same amount. I'm still waiting to hear details of the Federation's inclusive 5-10 year development plan for Cambodian football incorporating grassroots and all levels up to the national team. Perhaps they can spend a slice of the Metfone money on getting this completed and shipped out to all interested parties, so we know what direction Cambodian football is heading in the future. That would be a start wouldn't it.

Spotlight on Sunday

Bouy Dary gives his Academy team a pre-match talk in Kompong Cham province
The Academy starting line-up for the 1st half v Tbong Khmoum district opponents
Svang Samnang gets a start in goal
Warming-up exercises before the game
The boys listen to the pre-match talk from the coach
The half-time team-talk attracted hordes of listeners
Head over the ball, In Sodavid with the penalty kick that won the match 3-2

Suon Noeut demonstrates the perfect cross
Men Piphop with a throw-in
The Academy line-up that started the 2nd half of the 3-period game

The Phnom Penh Crown Academy youngsters took themselves and the name of their club to the provinces on Sunday to play a representative team from a district deep into the rubber tree territory of Kompong Cham. Here are more photographs from their weekend away. Coach Bouy Dary expressed satisfaction with the trip, designed at making new friends, giving his Academy team new experiences and to play on a pitch and against opposition they wouldn't normally encounter.