Saturday, September 29, 2012

Picture post

Tieng Tiny and Yok Ary shake hands before the start
A few snaps from last night at the Central Stadium, here in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Someone stayed at home so the official attendance was announced at 9,999, providing a boisterous evening atmosphere in the stadium where the number of Crown fans numbered precisely two (including me).
Referee Khamis Al Marri from Qatar looks to the heavens whilst tossing

Crown line-up behind the ball boys - in a clash of red shirts

The final pre-match huddle of the season

Waiting for the 2nd half to start

Emmanuel Frimpong being interviewed live for Tajik TV

The last hurrah

David Booth takes his Crown players for one final warm-up session
Last night's 6-0 beating by home team favourites Istiklol was David Booth's last game in charge of the Phnom Penh Crown team, as he announced a few days ago. He wanted to go out on a high, but it didn't quite pan out that way. Up til half-time, though the Tajik team had the majority of the play, Crown were in the game and beginning to frustrate their opponents. Two minutes after the restart that was all forgotten, as Istiklol took the game by the scruff of the neck and whacked in another five goals without reply. The sag in the shoulders of players and staff said it all. Soundly beaten by a better team, for the second time in three days. David Booth admitted his team were simply not good enough and it was the end of this particular road for the English coach.
His final press conference as Crown's head coach was not a happy one

Reviewing his troops ahead of the Istiklol match

Final instructions in the warm-up room outside the team's dressing room

Friday, September 28, 2012

Out of our depth

PPCFC line-up: Back LtoR: Dara, Vanthan, Rady, Frimpong, S Pheng, Tiny. Front: Sovanna, Suhana, Ary, Lika, Borey - click to enlarge
The curtain came crashing down tonight on Phnom Penh Crown's involvement in this year's AFC President's Cup with a second heavy defeat in three days, as they succumbed 6-0 to home favourites FC Istiklol, in front of a noisy crowd of 9,999. Behind to a single goal at the interval, the floodgates opened in the second half, as they had against Dordoi in the previous game, leaving Crown head coach David Booth a dejected figure at the post-match press conference. "I look at the two games, at how my team have played and its obvious we're out of our depth here this year. There's been a lot of changes in the club and perhaps it would've been better if we'd stayed at home. We made changes for today, our goalkeeper couldn't play, one or two positional changes but we've got young players, with absolutely no experience whatsoever, but its all we have. It's just embarrassing, I've never been in this situation before. To come here and be beaten like that twice - we're not good enough to be here. We had a couple of chances in the game but nothing that would hurt them. I'm quite embarrassed really with the two performances. My team were way below par, way below the standard that's required for this competition and the two teams that played against us didn't have to play at their best. Going on history, the home team usually wins this competition - I don't know who will win and I'm not really bothered now."

Forced to include Yok Ary in goal for the injured Samrith Seiha, David Booth also brought in Soeng Vanthan and Chhun Sovanna into midfield and Sok Pheng to partner Khim Borey in attack. Apart from a fine piece of handling from Ary to deny Makhmadali Sadykov, Crown were giving as good as they got until Istiklol captain Dilshod Vasiev escaped his marker on 26 minutes to rifle the ball into the top corner to send the big crowd into raptures. The home team required a point from the match to qualify for the final but were determined to put on a good show. However, they were so nearly caught out less than a minute later when Khim Borey and Sos Suhana exchanged passes which released Suhana into the box only to see goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev block his shot, and with it Crown's best chance of the half. Ary was called upon to snuff out attempts by Davronjon Ergashev from all of forty yards, and Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev from much closer, whilst Ibragim Rabimov and Umedzhon Sharipov were a whisker away with their target practice just before half-time.

With 47 seconds on the clock of the second period, Ary had to be quick off his line to keep out Farkhod Tokhirov's shot with his feet but within two minutes of the restart, the half-time substitute had doubled Istiklol's lead. Ergashev's long-range shot took a deflection off Tokhirov's head and wrong-footed Ary, with the striker looking at least a couple of yards offside, but the match officials waved aside Crown's appeals and the home team fans rejoiced. Sok Pheng twice found space on the edge of the home penalty area, only for Tuychiev to collect his first shot easily enough and a defender charged down the second. In between, Sharipov took the ball off Hong Pheng's toe, bore down on goal and his swerving shot evaded Ary's dive for their third goal on 52 minutes. Six minutes later, Vi Lika failed to cut out a cross and Rabimov's aim was true from the edge of the box to extend his team's lead even further. Two minutes later and Khim Borey tried his luck from thirty yards, only to see his drive dip just over the crossbar. Most of the attacking intent was coming from Istiklol, though a great chance fell to Borey, when Emmanuel Frimpong's corner was headed down by Pheak Rady, only for goalkeeper Tuychiev to block Borey's shot with his body.

Istiklol continued to press forward, encouraged by their supporters and on 75 minutes they netted again. A jinking run by Alexander Frank allowed Fatkhuloev the time to pick his spot from twelve yards out and he made no mistake. Tieng Tiny's last-ditch tackle prevented Rabimov from adding to the tally but he wasn't to be denied and eight seconds into time added on, the Istiklol number 7 fired in from the edge of the box after more good work from Frank. Istiklol's tally of six goals without reply was food and drink to the home fans, whilst the Crown players trudged wearily from the pitch, having conceded 14 goals in their two cup matches. There were bookings for Vanthan, Frimpong and Tiny, with Frimpong selected by the host broadcaster for the post-match interview.
PPCFC line-up: Ary, Dara, Rady, Lika, Tiny, Suhana (Chaya 25), Frimpong, Vanthan, Sovanna (H Pheng 45), S Pheng (Sothy 67), Borey. Subs not used: Seiha, Sovan, Makara. Bookings: Vanthan, Frimpong, Tiny.

Theatre of truth

Crown coach David Booth (left) will be in the Central Stadium sunken dug-out for the last time tonight
Phnom Penh Crown face the host nation's favourite sons, FC Istiklol, tonight under floodlights at the Central Stadium, and with a big point to prove. An 8-goal thrashing against Dordoi two nights ago will have given the Crown players nightmares, and if it didn't, it should've. The performance of the team was below an acceptable standard at this level of competition. The clubs in the AFC President's Cup are champions of their respective countries for a reason, they are the cream of the emerging nations and if Cambodia wants to stand toe to toe with them, its players need to step up to the plate. Professionalism is not just a long word, it's a state of mind and attitude to the task in hand. If you don't adopt a professional mindset then you will fail, because every one of the other teams in this competition are treating it as if their lives depend on it. Dordoi came at Crown from the first whistle and we wilted, especially as the game wore on. Tonight, we will face a similar barrage from Istiklol, who will be roared on by a large partisan crowd. They need a point but they will be going for the jugular right from the off. The Crown players know it and they must deal with it. Coach David Booth has made changes to his line-up for what he has said, will be his final game in charge of the team. He will not want to bow out without a performance that is passionate, hard-working and honest. The players owe him that.

All of the AFC President's Cup matches are being played at the Dushanbe Central Stadium, the theatre of dreams for Tajik football since it was built in 1956 during the Soviet-era. While league matches are routinely held in other stadiums – Aviator, Polytechnic and Spartak – the big matches are reserved for the 20,000-seater Central Stadium. Such is the landmark’s aura that even during devastating civil war from 1992 until 1997 the stadium was used for football matches, providing moments of major respite to the sports-loving populace. Some of Tajikistan’s unforgettable football victories have taken place at the Central. Fans fondly remember the 4-0 defeat of neighbours Uzbekistan in an AFC Asian Cup qualifier in 1996. It was here the popular Central Asian Games, filled with pomp and pageantry, were held in 2003. And the Tajiks will not forget the goalless draw against Bahrain in FIFA World Cup 2006 qualifying action in 2004. The Central has undergone major renovation in recent years and continues to be the main address of Tajik sports.
The main stand and VIP area of the Central Stadium

The seats opposite the main stand at the Central Stadium

The electronic scoreboard at Central Stadium

Some of the Crown players in the renovated dressing rooms at Central Stadium

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Virtual national team

The Istiklol starting line-up that defeated Dordoi 2-0 earlier this week
Phnom Penh Crown's opponents tomorrow night, FC Istiklol, are relative new boys on the block when it comes to Tajikistan football. They were formed in 2007 and captured the Tajik League title in 2010 and 2011, disrupting the virtual monopoly of seven-times champions Regar-TadAZ, who had also won the AFC President's Cup on three occasions. Istiklol's Serbian coach Nikola Kavazovic (he has his own website, here) arrived in April and during his six months in Tajikistan he's also taken temporary charge of the Tajik national team, guiding them to a 2-1 win over Qatar. Of that squad, nine of the eleven Istiklol players who defeated Dordoi in their AFC President's Cup opener this week, winning 2-0, were included. Effectively, Istiklol are the country's national team. The only non-Tajik player in their starting line-up was Russian journeyman Aleksandr Kudriashov. Their other foreign player is Tajik-born German Alexander Frank who arrived via Uzbek football. Goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev emerged as the hero of the hour with a penalty save and some fine stops in the win over Dordoi, even though they lost defender Sohib Savankulov to a red card. A goal in each half from Davronjon Ergashev and Makhmadali Sadykov was enough to grab the result they'd wanted against their next-door neighbours from Kyrgyzstan. They need a point from tomorrow's game against Crown to confirm their place in the final on 30 September. Meanwhile Dordoi will have their fingers and toes crossed that Crown can cause an upset and pull off an unlikely success, just 48 hours after Dordoi handed an 8-0 thrashing to the Cambodian club.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

At Central Stadium

Dordoi's gameplan worked a treat,overwhelming PPCFC to win 8-0
More pictures from tonight's Phnom Penh Crown tie against Dordoi from Kyrgyzstan. Dordoi ran out comprehensive 8-0 winners at the Central Stadium in front of 2,132 spectators. Crown must now regroup ahead of their second AFC Presidents Cup group match against home side Istiklol on Friday night.
Samrith Seiha is interviewed by Tajik TV with translation into English by Ouk Sothy

Tieng Tiny (red) leads out the PPCFC team

Warming-up exercises ahead of tonight's game at Dushanbe's Central Stadium

Disgraceful performance

PPCFC Line-up tonight: Back LtoR: Dara, Rady, Frimpong, H Pheng, Lika, Borey. Front: Sovan, Makara, Seiha, Suhana, Tiny - click to enlarge

Coach David Booth was scathing in his assessment of his team's 8-0 capitulation in tonight's AFC President's Cup disaster, as his Phnom Penh Crown side were sunk without trace by a rampant Dordoi team from Kyrgyzstan, here in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. In his after-match press conference, the passionate English coach cut a very unhappy figure. "We suffered from two headers, two goals in the first few minutes, so it was always downhill from there. But the players gave up, no excuses, I can't defend them, I can't say we played any good football, I can't say anything positive about the game; except we made a lot of mistakes and gave them a lot of goals. Not one positive except the goalkeeper [Seiha] who worked hard, the rest of the team just gave up, I've never seen that before. We've had our problems this year at the club and I think it showed here today. It's impossible for me to sit here and try to defend that game. I apologize but there's not any positives I can say. The players don't care, they didn't show any commitment whatsoever to win that game. It was just a disgraceful performance."
"If you analyze the goals that they scored, you can see a mistake in every one of them, except the free-kick, which was a fantastic goal. Apart from that, every other one was a mistake by our team.At least five gifts - misplaced back-passes straight to their feet, scuffs straight to them, two free headers in the first seven minutes, after we worked on this for the last two weeks. They were all gifts except for the free-kick. We've got one more game, we can't do any worse than that. The next game is my last game, as my contract expires in October. At the moment I will be happy to go. I have a couple of options to consider. I'll take a holiday to see my family and then decide where to go. These players don't care, they don't care one jot. They don't care whether they win, lose or draw, whether its 8, 9 or 10, they don't care. They're quite happy in the dressing room. I'm sorry for tonight I apologize for spoiling a good game."

Crown's pre-match aim was to get a positive result through hard work and youthful zest. Needing a win to retain a chance of qualification, two-time winners Dordoi began like a runaway train and were two goals to the good within eight minutes of the kick-off. Booth's pre-match warnings to stop crosses went unheeded as Azamat Baimatov rose above Pheak Rady to head in the first after five minutes, with Ghanaian David Tetteh stooping to head a second three minutes later after Samrith Seiha had pushed aside Baimatov's 25-yard drive. Crown's best spell saw Sos Suhana squeeze a pass through to Khim Borey but the striker screwed his shot across the face of goal and wide on 13 minutes. A few minutes later and Adyl Bekbolotov escaped censure by referee Fahad Almirdasi when he pulled back Hong Pheng on the edge of the box as the striker got goal-side of him. Despite being the last man, the referee saw it differently. Emmanuel Frimnpong's free-kick struck the defensive wall. On 19 minutes Samrith Seiha pulled off the first of several outstanding saves to deny Maka Koum, before Pheak Rady and then Maka Koum were both cautioned for kicking one another. Koum's yellow card could easily have been a red one as he took retribution on the Crown full-back. As the half progressed, Seiha was again called upon to turn aside a twenty-yard effort from Tetteh and then miraculously pushed a close-range fierce drive from Baimatov onto the cross-bar, but at the cost of an injured wrist. Chan Chaya replaced a struggling Leng Makara just before Seiha went down quickly at the foot of the post to deny another Baimatov strike on goal. Crown were pleased to hear the half-time whistle.

If they thought half-time would bring some relief, Crown were sadly mistaken as Dordoi came out with guns blazing. It took them another twelve minutes before they found the net again, after Seiha had thwarted efforts from Tetteh and Baimatov, whilst the latter also sent a rasping thirty-yard drive inches wide. On 57 minutes a wayward Chan Dara back-pass found Ruslan Sydykov in space and he laid the ball off to Valerii Kichin who rifled the ball in from ten yards out. Seiha was the busiest man on the pitch and he denied Islam Shamshiev but had no chance when Dordoi's Brazilian substitute Anderson de Souza, aka Dan Juan, was standing five yards offside to tuck in their fourth goal on 63 minutes. With freedom to roam, Baimatov was causing all sorts of problems for Crown but it was his free-kick prowess on 72 minutes that drew applause from the 2,132 audience. He let rip from fully thirty yards out and his thunderbolt sailed into the top corner with Seiha unable to reach it. Three minutes later, Rady's poor clearance fell at the feet of Shamshiev and he rifled in from twenty yards out for their sixth goal. Nothing was seen of Crown as an attacking force, with all the action at the other end including a jinking run by Dan Juan that bamboozled three Crown defenders but not Seiha, who saved well. With seven minutes remaining, Dordoi claimed their seventh as Nurkal Sataev dispatched a pull-back from Shamshiev, whilst Baimatov deservedly claimed his hat-trick in the final minute, as he headed home from Kichin's long free-kick.

It was a night to forget for Crown's youthful line-up, with Vi Lika drafted in to replace Odion Obadin, who had earlier been refused entry into China and returned home, while Leng Makara and Hong Pheng were given wide duties and Khim Borey restored to a solo striking role. Samrith Seiha was the only player to emerge with real credit from the game, though a wrist injury must make him a doubt for Friday's match against the home team Istiklol, who need just a point to reach the cup final. Sok Sovan and Soeng Vanthan were kept back after the final whistle to undergo dope testing whilst Seiha was interviewed by Tajikistan television and David Booth made his appearance at the press conference.
PPCFC Line-up: Seiha, Rady, Sovan, Lika, Tiny, Dara, Frimpong, Makara (Chaya 42), H Pheng (S Pheng 71), Suhana, Borey. Subs not used: Ary, Vanthan, Sothy, Sovanna. Bookings: Rady, Frimpong, Chaya.
Crown head coach David Booth at his after-match press conference

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Believe in yourselves

PPCFC line-up for an impromptu group photo. Standing LtoR: Frimpong, Sothy, Lika, Vanthan, Sovan, H Pheng, Rady, Dara, Tiny, Sovanna. Front LtoR: S Pheng, Chaya, Suhana, Makara, Seiha, Ary, Borey.
Head coach David Booth left the Phnom Penh Crown players in no doubt as to the task that lies ahead of them in a team meeting held before their evening training session under floodlights at the Central Stadium tonight. "Dordoi may have a height and strength advantage against you, but we can win. Go out with a positive mental attitude. We are faster, quicker, fitter and we play better football. We have nothing to fear. We can win. Believe in yourselves." The excellent playing surface and top quality floodlights were a welcome bonus compared to facilities back home, as the Crown squad were put through their paces on the pitch where they will meet Dordoi in tomorrow's opening AFC President's Cup Group A tie for the Cambodian team. David Booth spent nearly an hour on tactical play with his squad in addition to the usual ball work, sprinting and stretching, so the players could get used to the surface and playing under the lights. The floodlights at the Central Stadium have been upgraded at considerable cost as well as additional dressing rooms added as the Tajikistan football federation pulled out all the stops in order to host this year's competition final. What we've seen so far is a credit to them.
Khim Borey gets ready for his training session at the Central Stadium

Sok Sovan and teammates stretching

Head coach David Booth oversees training

The Crown squad reach for the sky

David Booth surveying his squad under lights at Central Stadium

The Crown players show their coach due respect

A final few words to the squad as the training session ends

The Crown playing team pose before training commences at the Central Stadium - click to enlarge all photos

The task ahead

Crown coach David Booth makes his point to his youthful squad
To put the enormity of the task facing Phnom Penh Crown in qualifying for this year's final of the AFC President's Cup into true context, we should take a moment to consider the respective team line-ups. Crown reached the final last year, narrowly losing 3-2 to Taiwan Power in a contentious championship decider, with a very experienced team by Cambodian standards. Of the team that faced Taiwan a year ago, only two players are certain to start in tomorrow night's opening Group A game against Dordoi, namely captain Tieng Tiny and Khim Borey. Even Chan Chaya who played against Taiwan, is a serious doubt with a toe injury. The rest of tomorrow's Crown line-up will be players who didn't make the starting eleven last time around or who have arrived this season. Perhaps half a dozen players who appeared for Crown in their opening match of the qualifying competition in May (an 8-0 win over Yeedzin), will start tomorrow night's match. Coach David Booth has yet to announce his starting team for the game.
Compare that to the Dordoi team, who won the qualifying group held in Crown's own backyard in Phnom Penh in May of this year and their only change is the absence of the competition's top scorer with eight goals (including a 5-goal haul against Yeedzin), Mirlan Murzaev, who has left to strut his stuff in Israel. Dordoi didn't qualify for last year's AFC President's Cup competition. Their opening game against the host club FC Istiklol didn't pan out as they would've wanted yesterday, they lost 2-0, so tomorrow, Crown can expect an all-out aerial bombardment in order to salvage some Kyrgyz pride. Last season Istiklol didn't get out of the final group stage of the President's Cup but their team is a year older and ten of the players who beat Dordoi yesterday, were in their starting line-up in last year's competition. Another year older, wiser and more cohesive, as we saw in in their 2-0 success. The importance of experienced heads and a settled line-up in international competitions like these can never be underestimated and that's where Crown will find it difficult to match their Group A opponents. However, Crown's youthful dynamism and more cultured playing style could give them the springboard to surprise their Central Asian opponents.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dordoi downed

The Dordoi (yellow) and Istiklol teams line-up
The Phnom Penh Crown squad travelled to the Central Stadium in Dushanbe this afternoon to watch the opening Group A match of the AFC President's Cup Final Stage between the home side, Istiklol (Tajikistan) and their next-door-neighbours, Dordoi from Kyrgyzstan. Both teams are highly-fancied with history and home advantage on their side respectively, though it was Istiklol, cheered on by 5,118 spectators, who won 2-0 and deservedly so. They could even afford to play the final 38 minutes with 10-men, it was that comfortable. Both teams had half chances before the crowd erupted on 39 minutes when Davronjon Ergashev rose unchallenged to head the home team into the lead. His prayer goal celebrations lasted a full minute. At the start of the 2nd half, Dordoi looked to get a lifeline back into the match. Istiklol's Sohib Savankulov was dismissed for handball on the goal-line and Azamat Baimatov waited for a full two minutes whilst the red-carded player trudged slowly to the dressing room. The wait unnerved him and a poorly struck spot-kick was easily saved by keeper Alisher Tuychiev. Spurred on, Istiklol netted a second goal 15 minutes after the break when full-back Makhmadali Sadykov raced down the right wing and his cross caught Dordoi keeper Pavel Matiash unawares and the ball found its way inside the near post, with the help of keeper's knee. Dordoi's long ball game hadn't worked - mainly as they were missing their top scorer Mirlan Murzaev - the home team's ten men were coping admirably with everything a tired-looking Dordoi had to offer and there was no way back for the two-times champions, who failed to change their game-plan when it mattered most. Dordoi must beat PPCFC on Wednesday to have any hope of making the final. The Crown squad had seen enough and headed back to their hotel for dinner at the final whistle. In the second match of the day at the same stadium, the opening Group B match between reigning champions Taiwan Power and Al Ammari Youth from Palestine ended all square at 1-1. Ahmed Keshkesh put the Palestine club ahead on 68 minutes with Yi-Wei Chen equalizing with three minutes to go. A crowd of 2,078 watched the game.
The Istiklol starting XI
The match is underway

Istiklol take the plaudits from the home crowd

Picture update

Coach David Booth talks to his players before training begins
Here's a few pictures from this morning's training session and the team hotel. Phnom Penh Crown had a good workout session, including ball work and sprints at the Aviator Stadium, in the shadow of a fighter jet, parked upright in the corner of the ground - not something you see every day. The only player to sit out the session was Chan Chaya who has a cut on his big toe. Then it was back to the Serena Hotel for lunch and later this afternoon we will head to the Central Stadium for the opening match of the AFC President's Cup final round. The match kicks off at 4pm between the home team Istiklol and near neighbours Dordoi. They are expecting a crowd of between 10-15,000. 
Sprints for Sothy, Suhana and Rady

Ouk Sothy is today's translator as he explains what the coach has said

David Booth blocking out Emmanuel Frimpong's face

Team huddles are ever-present these days

Coach David Booth begins the training session

A fighter jet parked in a corner of the Aviator Stadium

The front of the Serena Hotel with the team coach

The hotel's roof-top swimming pool

Foreign legion

Last year's opposing coaches in the final, Taiwan's Chen Kuei-Jen and PPCFC's David Booth (center) reminisce at Sunday's press conference
The teams competing in the 2012 edition of the AFC President's Cup have foreign players in their ranks except Pakistani champions KRL and last year's champions Taiwan Power Company. Serbian coach Nikola Kavazovic at host team Istiklol has lured Alexander Frank from Uzbek club Kyzylkum to beef up their contingent and the German playmaker will team up with Russian midfielder Aleksandr Kudriashov to keep the engine room running smoothly for the host Dushanbe side.
Al Ammari from Palestine, who will be making their debut in the final stage, have strengthened their defence with coach Raed Youssef Assaf roping in the Jordanian duo of strong man Ahmad Al Nasarara and goalkeeper Mohammad Bkirat. Dordoi have successfully attracted Brazilians Previato Giancarlo and Dan Juan as well as Ghanaian defender Daniel Tagoe with veteran Russian coach Sergei Dvoryankov expected to go flat out to reclaim the trophy, which they won in 2006 and 2007. However, they will only be allowed two foreign players come matchday. And experienced English coach David Booth at Phnom Penh Crown has Ghanaian midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong to count on, though central defender Odion Obadin has not made it to Tajikistan in time for the matches which begin at 4pm on Monday, when Istiklol meet Dordoi in the clash of the giants in Group A. [Details from].

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Getting closer

PPCFC goalkeepers Yok Ary and Samrith Seiha go through their stretches
Much of Sunday morning was spent catching up with some sleep after the previous day was spent travelling to get to Dushanbe from Phnom Penh. The AFC scheduled their tournament press conference for 11am, which Phnom Penh Crown coach David Booth, and captain Tieng Tiny, joined, alongwith the other five participating teams. When questioned by the press, David Booth commented: "Last year we were underdogs. To get to the final was outstanding. To come to this competition is both an adventure and an experience, as Cambodian teams never travel well. Now we meet 2 of the favourite teams, they have different styles to us, so it's a big learning curve for our players. Other teams are stronger and taller than us, so we have to work on the mental aspects and believe that 'biggest is not always best.' Physically and mentally we are prepared; last year we exceeded expectations, so maybe another team can do the same this time around." In answering a question about the strengths of Central Asian teams, he continued: "I don't know if non-Central Asian teams like ourselves are strong enough. When we play the likes of Dordoi, its a challenge for us, as we are desperately trying to catch up. These games are more important for us; as we learn more each time we play in this competition. Its good for Cambodian football and its players, as it shows where we have to get to. Last year we came very close to winning, but 1 or 2 players lost their heads. We've moved on and replaced a number of those players. We did so well last year, so maybe the gap is getting closer."
After lunch back at the Serena Hotel, the squad relaxed whilst myself and the club's team manager returned to the Hyatt Hotel, the location of the earlier gathering, for the team manager's meeting, to confirm the rules and regulations of the competition. We ran through the playing kit choices for the upcoming matches, collected our accreditation cards and returned back, only to find the bus to take the players for their afternoon training session was nowhere to be seen. Ninety minutes later, another team's bus appeared so we commandeered that to take us for a session to get the jetlag out of our bones, though the failure by the local organising committee smacked of the fun and games we had in Taiwan last year. The players stretched and ran off the previous day's travelling at a local club's training pitch and then rode back through every red light under police escort, in time for dinner and an early night for all.
Coach David Booth looks to the heavens during a team meeting before training

Concentrating on the coach's instructions: Pheak Rady, Chan Dara, Hong Pheng

The captains and coaches at the 2nd of today's press conferences. LtoR, Istiklol, Dordoi and PPCFC's Tieng Tiny and David Booth

David Booth looks skywards whilst Tieng Tiny waits for the next question