Thursday, August 29, 2013

Twenty-six for the U-23s

Lee Tae-Hoon is back as the head coach of the Cambodia national team. I have made my feelings perfectly clear how I view his re-appointment to the job, so I won't re-hash that particular bugbear. However, its worth taking a look at the first squad he's picked since his return to the post, which was made public today. It's an Under-23 squad rather than a full senior team, as we have U-23 competitions coming up in the BIDC Mekong Cup, at home, in November followed by the SEA Games in Myanmar in December. And looking at the squad, it's like Lee has never been away. He has picked a bunch of his favourite players such as Tum Saray, Touch Pancharong, Phoung Soksana and Srey Oudom, who readily spring to mind as past selections of the South Korean coach. Boeung Ket provide eight players in the 26-man squad that will assemble at the Tonle Bati national training center on 2 September. Champions Svay Rieng have six players called-up and the Army have six as well, despite the military team finishing one place above automatic relegation. There are some new faces, such as Kirivong's Nhem Sovannara, Boeung Ket's Keo Sokpheng and Ros Samoeun, Aim Sovannarath, the Svay Rieng goalkeeper who picked up the keeper of the year award and Phnom Penh Crown's Khmer-French import Bin Thierry. There are also some names who've been around the local football scene for what seems like many years and yet surprisingly, they still make selection for the U-23s. The ageless Peter Pans of Cambodian football I would suggest. Lee Tae-Hoon has also called on his former backroom team of Meas Channa, Ieng Saknida and Oum Savong to assist him.
Here's the 26-man squad:
Phnom Penh Crown: Samrith Seiha, Sos Suahana, Bin Thierry.
National Police: Say Piseth, Srey Oudom.
Kirivong: Nhem Sovannara.
Army: Sou Yaty, Chhin Chhoeun, Phoung Soksana, Khek Khemarin, Ke Vannak, Ung Dara.
Svay Rieng: Aim Sovannarath, Sar Sophea, Sok Rithy, Prak Mony Udom, Tum Saray, Nen Sothearoth.
Boeung Ket: Chan Vatanaka, Keo Sokngon, Keo Sokpheng, Touch Pancharong, Khiev Vibol, Chhun Sothearath, Sok Sovan, Ros Samoeun. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Unfair reflection

Cambodia U-16s v Myanmar. Back Row LtoR: Ravan, Samnang, Ratana, Baraing, Dinarong, Chanpolin (capt). Front Row: Titchhy, Sodavid, Ponvuthy, Piphop, Noeut - click to enlarge
The immediate reaction from head coach Sam Schweingruber at the final whistle, as his Cambodia U-16s lost 2-1 to hosts Myanmar tonight was; "I'm disappointed, the result was not a true reflection of the game, we were the better side. We improved considerably from the previous game." It was the final Group A match of the AFF U-16 Youth Championships, held in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, and with Australia and Vietnam having already qualified for the semi-finals, this final match was to decide the third spot. With their 2-1 success, 3rd place was claimed by Myanmar, who opened the scoring courtesy of a defensive mistake on 13 minutes with Sa Aung Pyea Ko getting the goal. An own goal from Suon Noeut handed them their second goal on 82 minutes but it was an unfair reflection on Cambodia, who put on a much better performance but with little reward. In the final minute, Myanmar defender Ye Min Thu was red carded for a last-man foul and substitute Ouk Sovann stepped up to blast home the direct free-kick, for a consolation effort.
Cambodia U-16s starting XI: Samnang, Noeut, Baraing (Rozak 83), Titchhy, Dinarong, Sodavid, Chanpolin, Ravan, Ponvuthy (Sokheng 68), Ratana, Piphop (Sovann 68). Subs: Sokundara, Chansopheak, Phearath, Muslim. Unavailable: Mesa, Senteang.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Rithy on his bike

Sok Rithy, pictured at national team training in 2008
NagaCorp have pulled off a bit of a coup by securing the services of rock-solid central defender Sok Rithy from last season's champions Svay Rieng before the Metfone C-League teams begin to reassemble for the start of their pre-season training. Rithy has been a mainstay of the Svay Rieng (previously known as Preah Khan Reach) and Cambodia teams, at various age levels, for the last few years (I recall him making his full debut in the Suzuki Cup in 2008) and winning the title with the military-police backed team last season would've been a highlight for him. His performances have made him one of the most consistent performers in the country for the past few years and despite offers to move, he remained at Svay Rieng. Nevertheless, he's now been tempted away to sign for the casino-backed club and will line-up alongside other national team defenders in the shape of Tieng Tiny, Om Thavrak and Chan Dara in the coming season. I did notice one anomaly though. His official birthdate on the AFF website as supplied by the Cambodian football federation is December 1990, which makes him 22 years old, but to be perfectly frank, he's been around for so long, that is clearly an error of some magnitude. Then I checked on the player's own Facebook page and he quotes his own birthdate as December 1986, which puts his age at 26 years old. A lot more feasible. Must've been a typing error from the FFC, right?  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Through Sam's eyes

Cambodia U-16s head coach Sam Schweingruber reflected on his team's 6-0 defeat to Vietnam on Saturday in the AFF U-16 Youth Championship.
"The first 35 minutes of the game showed us that our objective to win against Vietnam was difficult but certainly possible. The intensity and commitment displayed by the players made me proud. We worked so hard and well.  Individual technical mistakes and a lot of fouls made it difficult for our boys to really build up and keep possession and while Vietnam were strong they did not really cause us trouble or danger other than a corner kick and a shot from distance. We knew that we needed a perfect game and a bit of luck, but neither of it came our way on the day. On 32 minutes I had to replace Senteang after a strong challenge in which he broke his collarbone. Soon after Dinarong needed treatment for a kick in his leg and he played on but in pain. On 38 mins this cost us; a long free kick and Dinarong was a bit slower and less aggressive with his injury and Titchhy was also late to cover and we were down 1-nil. After a corner kick it was Mesa’s turn to get treatment and the late challenge on him should’ve been punished. The game was certainly not over and just before half-time we were robbed of a perfect chance - a 1-touch ball was played through and left 2 of our players alone against the goalkeeper, but the referee decided on a free kick for us and stole a perfect advantage.

At half-time we had to change Mesa and Samnang replaced him. We also had to fix injuries to Sodavid & Ravan who both had trouble breathing after hard hits, Chanpolin and Ponvuthy with ankle issues and Dinarong with his injury. We took a risk to keep Dinarong on the field. After just 3 mins, a nice cross and Dinarong reacted late; it was clear that it was the wrong call to let him continue and a third goal confirmed it. So Sovann replaced him on 55 mins. We had long spells of attacking and I decided to push the team to at least score a goal. On a few occasions we came close - the best chance fell to Sokheng when he went through for a 1-on-1 with their keeper. Vietnam was now pushed back on the defensive and hoping to punish us on the counter attack. We failed to find a way through, wasted some free kicks and good possession and then got punished on the quick break. The final score, 6-0 was a total disappointment. Many players cried, both because of complete exhaustion and in disbelief how such a brave performance can end with such a heavy defeat.

With the well-rested Vietnam team (who had 3 complete days to recover before the match) going into the game with a direct and very physical approach and their head coach pushing them to hurt us, it was all too much for our boys. I am very proud of how they tried, how well we played the first 35 mins, how they never gave up and how much they wanted to make Cambodia proud. The disappointing result did not reflect on their brave performance. Luck was not with us today and some of our decisions didn’t work either. We are now looking to recover and learn from today, and will aim to end the tournament with a positive game and result against Myanmar on Wednesday."

Bully boys win

Cambodia U-16s v Vietnam. Back Row LtoR: Ravan, Mesa, Chanpolin, Baraing, Senteang, Dinarong. Front Row: Ponvuthy, Ratana, Noeut, Sodavid, Titchhy (capt) - click to enlarge
Cambodia's U-16s were quite literally kicked off the park by the Vietnam U-16s in their Group A AFF U-16 Youth Championship tie last night. Vietnam muscled and bullied their way to a 6-0 victory, leaving Cambodia's team looking like a scene from a movie massacre at the Zabuthiri Stadium in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. For coach Sam Schweingruber it was going to plan for the opening 35 minutes as his team stuck to their strategy and restricted the opposition, but a sloppy piece of defending gave Vietnam the lead through Bach Hong Han on 39 minutes. By that time, Cambodia had already lost striker Chhuot Senteang with a fractured collar bone following a bad challenge on the half hour and then goalkeeper Sem Mesa was kicked and stamped on and was unable to start the second-half. Just before the break Cambodia's best chance was cancelled as the match referee failed to play advantage and blew for a free-kick when two players were racing clear. Vietnam's Hong Han headed his team further ahead three minutes after the restart and Hoang The Tai netted a third on 54 minutes. Cambodia refused to lie down and took the game to their opponents but a series of reckless challenges on Orn Chanpolin, Pov Ponvuthy, Kunthea Ravan and In Sodavid hindered the team's progress and Vietnam's Le Tien Anh scored on 71 minutes. Despite their brave fighting spirit, Cambodia conceded two more goals in the last two minutes to hat-trick man Hong Han and substitute Nguyen Doan Trung Nhan. Referee Xaypaseuth Phonsanit of Laos finally woke up and brandished a straight red card for Tien Anh on 83 minutes but by then it was too little too late and Vietnam's bully boy tactics had won the day. Cambodia will play the hosts Myanmar in their final group game on Wednesday but will be without Senteang and Mesa.
Cambodia U-16s line-up: Mesa (Samnang 46), Noeut, Baraing, Dinarong (Sovann 59), Titchhy (capt), Sodavid, Chanpolin, Ravan, Ponvuthy, Ratana, Senteang (Sokheng 34). Subs not used: Sokundara, Chansopheak, Phearath, Muslim, Piphop, Rozak.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Brunei left reeling

The Cambodia U-16s celebrate back at their accommodation

I caught up with Sam Schweingruber, the coach of Cambodia's U-16s who'd just thrashed their opponents from Brunei 8-0 and despite the slow internet connections in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, he had this to say about his team's success in their second AFF U-16 Youth Championship tie.

"Well, we knew we would have a chance against Brunei and that they are not a great team but it turned out easier than expected. We made a perfect start which made it a lot easier, our first chance really and the first goal. Ratana again and again caused lots of trouble with his pace and he found Senteang free for the opening goal. We has a few good free-kick opportunities and some chances got wasted before an own goal really made the game safe. Just before half-time we managed to score 2 more goals: the 3rd goal was the same as the first, Ratana with a good run on the left, cut back and Senteang first touch and a goal. The 4th goal came off the crossbar, a rebound header and in the end it went in.

We knew that Brunei were reeling and honestly were hoping to add more goals in the second half. Just minutes after the restart Senteang was sent clear and went around the keeper. Some brilliant short passing and 1 more goal came. Then I made 3 early changes to rest some legs and get more goals. We really played some very nice attacking football and also great build up play, restricting Brunei to only a few shots from distance. They fell apart and this helped us to play so well. I have to admit our second half intensity dropped and we will have to pick it up when we face Vietnam on Saturday (at 7.15pm). They are a strong team as we know.

One more thing. Our captain today was Ravan. I have decided to give a new player the captain's armband for each game, to test them, to give them the chance to show, and to encourage that person to shine in the game a bit more - today Ravan scored 2 goals - it's something new, I've never done this before but because there was no obvious choice for captain, I decided to give it a go."
Cambodia (red) line-up with Brunei before the match

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sam's boys thrash Brunei

Cambodia v Brunei. Back Row LtoR: Titchhy, Ravan (capt), Mesa, Baraing, Dinarong, Chanpolin. Front Row: Ponvuthy, Sodavid, Ratana, Chansopheak, Senteang - click to enlarge
Head coach Sam Schweingruber ended his team talk earlier today with the words, "let's make Cambodia proud." And it seems to have resonated with his Cambodia U-16s national team, who then went out and thrashed their U-16 opponents from Brunei 8-0 in their AFF U-16 Youth Championship tie. These results don't come around often in international football and despite the Brunei coach telling his local news media that he was confident of a semi-final place at least, his team were never in the hunt after Cambodia took the lead in the third minute through Chhuot Senteang, who went onto have a match to remember with 4 goals to his name. It was Senteang who had a cross deflected for an own goal by Mohmd Syakirin Misli to put Cambodia's further ahead on 32 minutes. The young Phnom Penh Crown striker was at it again a minute before the half-time break and then Svay Rieng's Kunthea Ravan wrapped up a 4-goal interval lead in injury time from close range. Two minutes after the restart, Senteang collected his hat-trick. Ten minutes later Ravan, who was the team captain today, scored his second and within twenty minutes, substitute Long Phearath extended it to seven with a long range effort. In the final minute there was no stopping Cambodia and in particular Senteang who collected his fourth and Cambodia's eighth. A fantastic day for Cambodia, who now meet one of the favourites, Vietnam on Saturday with a later 7.15pm kick-off, with their confidence sky-high.
Cambodia U16 line-up: Mesa, Chansopheak, Baraing (Phearath 68), Titchhy, Dinarong, Sodavid (Muslim 68), Chanpolin (Piphop 54), Ravan (capt), Ratana, Ponvuthy, Senteang. Subs not used: Samnang, Sokundara, Sovann, Sokheng, Rozak. Injured: Noeut.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Could not be prouder

Head coach Sam Schweingruber speaks to the press
Cambodia's U-16 head coach Sam Schweingruber reflected on yesterday's 4-0 defeat against Australia in the AFF U-16 Youth Championships in Myanmar after taking his team in this morning's training session:
"We played against a top team and had our idea on how we wanted to perform but going a goal down after just 3 minutes is hard. We actually started really well but with their first attack, they scored a goal, possibly offside but we didn't react fast enough. We never recovered, tried to build up and play but had no chance in the middle, though some good moments on the wings, but outmuscled. Their 2nd goal was really disappointing, as we prepared to deal with their only corner in the entire game and expect a high ball, they played short and hit a wonder strike. Third goal was a repetition of the first, a ball behind our defense on our left, quick ball in and we didn't have enough numbers to stop them.
For the 2nd half, I could not be prouder of the boys, our task was not to concede for 45 minutes and we worked really well and hard. We had some better moments going forward but didn't get close enough with just two free-kicks and a corner, and only one shot on target. Australia never slowed down and gave us all they had including some crazy challenges and tackles, especially a really bad one on Noeut. But we restricted them to only three chances, with the late goal a huge disappointment as our keeper fumbled and Sovann miskicked his clearance. Now we need to get ready for Brunei. It's going to be a very different game but with the same attitude, I am confident the team will make me proud again."

Cambodia meet Brunei tomorrow at 4.30pm Cambodia-time, at the same Zabuthiri Stadium in Naypyidaw and will be hell bent on putting a good performance together against one of the teams they've identified as being of a similar standard. They played the final seven minutes of their match with Australia with ten players after Suon Noeut was brutally fouled and will almost certainly miss the Brunei game. Cambodia had already made their allotted three substitutions before the incident. Central defender Ouk Dinarong is also a doubt as is wideman Chhoeung Sokheng, with Pov Ponvuthy his likely replacement.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Joeys take the honours

Cambodia U-16 starting XI. Back Row LtoR: Ravann, Mesa (capt), Sokheng, Dinarong, Chanpolin. Front Row: Sodavid, Senteang, Noeut, Ratana, Baraing, Titchhy - click to enlarge
The Cambodia U-16 national team went down 4-0 to their Australian counterparts in the opening Group A game of the AFF U-16 Aya Bank Championships in Naypyidaw, Myanmar earlier this afternoon. As expected the Australians were bigger in stature and began the match on the front foot, scoring the opening goal through Jackson Bandiera after just three minutes. They added a second from a corner which Cambodia should've dealt with better, Jamie Dimitroff netting on fourteen minutes. Bandiera scored his second after 33 minutes and that's how the score remained until the break, 3-nil to the Joeys. After the break Cambodia played the football they would've liked to have started with and were level pegging until injuries to Suon Noeut and Ouk Dinarong weakened the backline and Australia scored their fourth and final goal with six minutes left through Daniel Maskins. 
Cambodia U-16 line-up: Mesa, Noeut, Baraing, Titchhy, Dinarong (Sovann 68), Sodavid, Chanpolin, Ravan (Rozak 82), Sokheng (Ponvuthy 72), Ratana, Senteang. Subs not used: Samnang, Sokundara, Phearath, Muslim, Chansopheak, Piphop.

Cambodia's head coach Sam Schweingruber told the AFF website: "We were outplayed physically but we also made several mistakes which we should not have at this level." Australia's coach, Tony Vidmar commented: "I was happy with the performance in the first half. The second could have been a lot better, but we are satisfied with the result." In the second Group A match played today, Vietnam 
saw off the hosts Myanmar with a 4-0 success including a hat-trick for Bach Hong Han. For Cambodia, their second game will be against Brunei on Thursday as they look to repair the damage from their first outing.
The two teams line-up before the opening game today

Coach Sam Schweingruber speaks to his squad in the brand new changing rooms at the stadium

Monday, August 19, 2013

Myanmar bound

The U-16 boys ready for takeoff from Phnom Penh airport - click to enlarge
The Cambodian U-16s are in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, ahead of their opening AFF U-16 Youth Championship match against Australia at 4.30pm Cambodian-time tomorrow. The 20-strong squad left Phnom Penh on Sunday morning. They are housed at the SEA Games athlete's village, which has been built for the upcoming Southeast Asia Games in December but the simple, basic conditions have not found favour with at least four of the U-16 teams - Singapore, Australia, Philippines and Indonesia - who have moved out to nearby hotels.

The National Women's Championships have been taking place at the Olympic Stadium this past weekend and with just eight teams taking part, the semi-finalists have already been decided. And they do not include Phnom Penh Crown Ladies. However, that doesn't come as a surprise as the team was hastily-assembled after initially being barred from the competition. An eleventh-hour invitation from the federation saw an emergency call go out to the Battambang-based Salt Academy and a squad of young hopefuls was put together under coach Tes Sophat. The original Crown squad, who'd taken part in two recent tournaments, had all switched their allegiance to TriAsia Kandal when the federation had initially snubbed Crown. The new-look Crown girls lost 2-0 to Kompong Thom in their opening game, earned themselves a very creditable 0-0 draw with Phnom Svay of Banteay Meanchey, and on Sunday went down 2-0 in their final group outing, against their alter ego, TriAsia, despite dominating the game for long periods. The dominant Mighty Girls of Battambang are expected to lift the trophy later in the week.
The Phnom Penh Crown Ladies, who didn't qualify for the semi-finals - click to enlarge

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

U-16 squad announced

Sam Schweingruber encourages his Cambodia U-16s squad
Fourteen members of the Phnom Penh Crown Academy have been selected in the 20-strong Cambodia U-16's national team squad selected earlier today by head coach Sam Schweingruber, who doubles up as head coach at Crown. The U-16s drew 1-1 with Kirivong U-19s first thing this morning at Tonle Bati, with In Sodavid scoring a scorcher of a goal just before half-time. Afterwards Schweingruber announced the twenty players he would be taking to Myanmar on Sunday, for the AFF U-16 Youth Championships, which kicks-off against Australia on 20th. Two players were released from the squad immediately after the match, namely Kim Chhaya and Mat Sakrovy.

The Crown Academy players who will be going to Myanmar are keeper Svang Samnang, defenders Suon Noeut, Long Phearath, Ouk Sovann, Sraing Titchhy, Ken Chansopheak, and Seut Baraing. Midfielders Orn Chanpolin, In Sodavid, Sath Rozak and Men Piphop are going too, alongside strikers Chhuot Senteang, Yeu Muslim and Pov Ponvuthy. Also in the squad are Boeung Ket's keeper Sem Mesa and five players from Svay Rieng, keeper Soam Sokundara, central defender Ouk Dinarong,, Kunthea Ravan and widemen, Chhoeung Sokheng and Chheam Ratana.

Alongside Schweingruber, his coaching assistants will be Bouy Dary, the Academy coach at Crown, Keo Kosal (Svay Rieng), Oung Kanyanith (head coach at National Police), John McGlynn, In Sokha (keeper coach from Svay Rieng) and Lidwina Niewold (physio at Crown). The travelling party leave on 18 August and play Australia (20th), Brunei (22nd), Vietnam (24th) and hosts Myanmar (28th). One name you will not of heard before is John McGlynn (pictured below). John is Liverpool-born and has a wealth of playing and coaching experience, particularly in Australia for the past thirty years. He joined up with Crown at the back-end of last season before he returned to Australia to complete his A-license coaching badge. He was with the Aston Villa youth academy before emigrating to Australia as a teenager. He joined the Australian Army for twelve years playing for the defense forces team and the country's amateur squad before taking up coaching with a series of teams in Perth, Western Australia. John progressed to become the head coach of the University and State teams. Having served with the United Nations in Cambodia in 1993, he has returned to support Sam Schweingruber at Crown.
John McGlynn, assistant coach at PPCFC

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A real challenge

Sam Schweingruber speaks to the press after this morning's match
Sam Schweingruber is a busy football coach. Not only does he hold the reins at Phnom Penh Crown in the Metfone C-League but he's also in charge of the Cambodia women's team, is a FIFA coach instructor and next Sunday will be taking the Cambodia U-16 national youth team over to Myanmar to take part in the AFF U-16 Youth Championships. Earlier today he reduced the size of his squad to 22 players and will cut two more before the squad leaves these shores. In asking the head coach for his views on the forthcoming AFF Championships, we began with the make-up of his squad, which has an emphasis on players from his own Academy. "The quality of the PPCFC Academy, the first residential program in Cambodia, is obvious. The players have very good foundation and understand the basics. One of the big problems in Cambodia is the control of correct ages and Crown have spent a lot of time and energy selecting the best players at the right age. So to take players from the Crown Academy makes sense. We started the Cambodia Football Development League this season and the U-16 competition was open to players born 1997-2000. We didn't have time to do an extended check, so some players might even have been older. Svay Rieng, who won the title, had a majority of players born in 1997, so a year older than the U-16 national team is allowed to register. Svay Rieng played good physical football and didn't steal the victory in the final, but at the same time they were definitely not the stronger team when it comes to understanding and skill. The players we invited to try out for the national team turned out to be almost all over-age after careful investigation. Also the physical advantage of many players outside the Crown Academy cannot be matched with the deficits on skill and understanding. It's clear that the two teams with proper youth development at this stage are Svay Rieng and Crown."

What system will you employ with the U-16's in Myanmar? "We'll go with a system and try to fit in the players. 4-2-3-1 is how we play, but actually when we're without the ball it's more 4-4-1-1. In some moments of the game the individual players strengths and weaknesses will determine on how we play. A system is a way to organize a team on paper, what happens during the game is not dictated by the system, but how the individuals understand their role in the three key moments of the football game. We have 11 players involved in defending as I don't think we can afford to leave anybody on the pitch without responsibilities when we don't have the ball. If you call it 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 is not that important, the key is for each player to know what to be doing without the ball and how to support the team when we attack. Over the past month the team has shown improved defending against strong opposition but found it hard to score goals and this something we have to work on and improve.

The teams you face in Myanmar will be Australia, Brunei, Vietnam and the hosts Myanmar. What do you know about them and realistically, how good are our chances in this competition? "We know quite well what to expect when we face Australia in the opening game. They are following the Australian curriculum and have to play the Australian way - which is strongly influenced by Dutch football - so they will press us high up the pitch, man on man, etc, so we are working on getting ready for them. As for Brunei, we don't know much and unfortunately they will play their 1st game against us, so we can't watch them before. We have played 2 games against Vietnam's PVF Academy and learned more about their style of play, and they have ten players in the national team. The last game against Myanmar will be okay as I worked with their team last year at the Mandalay Academy and know how they want to play. We also know their coach well, Japanese coach Teshima who was here in Cambodia, and we know his ideas on how to play. We shall see..."

"The experience we gained from the recent Asean U-15 competition is huge. We are now more ready to play 2x45 minutes against strong teams and have also learned a lot of lessons from the different games. Our overall chances are not high. After only drawing twice in the Asean games over the last three months and losing eight matches, we know that we are playing acceptable football but struggle getting the results, often because of a physical mismatch. We get a lot of praise for our players, including how brave we try to play on many occasions, but in the end the results are what counts and that is going to be difficult. The AFF U-16s this year will be much more competitive than any games we've played so far. The regulations are the same as adult football as far as size of field, substitutions and playing time. So we know we are in for a real challenge." The head coach will likely announce his final 20-strong squad on Tuesday and the players will leave on Sunday 18th, with their opening match against Australia in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, two days later.

U-19s just too strong

Cambodia U-16s. Back Row LtoR: Ratana, Mesa, Dinarong, Chanpolin, Ravann, Sovann. Front Row: Titchhy, Senteang, Ponvuthy, Sodavid, Baraing - click to enlarge
The Cambodia U-16 national team have just over a week before they head to Myanmar for the AFF U-16 Youth Championships. So this morning's practice match against their older national colleagues from the U-19 national squad, also in training for an upcoming AFF U-19 competition in Indonesia next month, was timely and a good work out for both sides. Head coach Sam Schweingruber started with what is his likely strongest line-up against the U-19s captained by Svay Rieng's Hoy Phallin and including two of Schweingruber's own Crown players, Chhom Pisa and Ly Morslim. Overnight rain had left the RSN pitch very soggy underfoot and it was the U-19s who got the better of the early exchanges, drawing first blood through a well-placed Ros Ratanak shot on 23 minutes to put them ahead. Sem Mesa in the U-16s goal, kept out two efforts from Morslim with his legs and body and then tipped a point-blank header from Sareth Kriya over the bar. As half-time drew near, Orn Chanpolin's low shot was held by the U-19s stopper and in the closing seconds, the U-16s midfielder won a tackle on the edge of the box and blasted over the bar when an equaliser looked on the cards.

The younger U-16s began the second-half with a purpose but Chanpolin's shot was kept out and too much space allowed to Chhom Pisa just eight minutes in, cost them dearly. The bustling Crown midfielder carried the ball into the box and unleashed an unstoppable shot from fifteen yards out. As Schweingruber put fresh legs on the pitch, the U-19s put the result beyond the younger team when Svay Rieng's Nop Tola flicked in a near post header from a corner for their third goal. Svang Samnang in the U-16s goal came out bravely to block Tola a few minutes later before Chhoeung Sokheng fluffed his team's best chance by firing his shot straight at the keeper, after Long Phearath's mazy run into the box. With four minutes left on the clock, Sraing Titchhy broke through the middle of the U-19s defence and though his first shot was blocked, his perseverance paid off and he slotted the ball home from an acute angle, for a well-deserved consolation goal. 3-1 to the U-19s but a good run out for the U-16s, on a tough pitch, after which the head coach cut four players from his squad - Kung Chanvuthy, Soeung Khantey, Keo Dara and Mat Nuron - and will cut two more before the squad head for Myanmar next Sunday.
Cambodia U-16s: Mesa (Samnang), Sovann (Titchhy), Baraing (Phearath), Titchhy (Noeut), Dinarong, Sodavid, Chanpolin, Ravann (Piphop), Ponvuthy (Sokheng), Ratana (K Chhaya), Senteang (Dara). Subs not used: Sokundara, Chanvuthy, Chansopheak, Khantey, Sakrovy, Muslim, Nuron, Rozak.
The Cambodia U-19s starting line-up this morning

Thursday, August 8, 2013

It's raining seats in Myanmar

Naypyidaw fans caught in the act of throwing seats onto the pitch
Yangon United have just clinched their third consecutive Myanmar National League championship but it isn't all sweetness and light as the country gears up to host the forthcoming SEA Games in December. Two matches involving the champions have seen crowd disturbances in recent weeks, both of them in matches away from Yangon. Visiting supporters were escorted out of the ground and onto their buses by police during a match at Yadanarbon recently for their own safety. Then last week, their game in the capital of Naypyidaw was abandoned before half-time when a section of the home fans went on the rampage, throwing plastic seats from the grandstand onto the pitch, and invading the playing area while the game was in progress. No doubt the crowd of 20,000 went home pissed when the rioters caused the game to be abandoned and Yangon awarded the match as they were leading at the time. There were no police at the stadium only security guards, who struggled to control the riot. The brand new Wunna Theikdi stadium, which was being used for the first time, will host the opening and closing ceremonies of the SEA Games that will begin at the start of December. If you are thinking of attending, take a crash helmet. In fact, the Cambodian U-16s go to Naypyidaw in a little over a week to play in the AFF U-16 Championships. Let's hope the local fans are less upset watching the youth players perform.
Security struggle to restrain an unruly Naypyidaw fan from invading the pitch

Broken seats litter the ground. Over 150 seats were ruined. Pictures from Yangon Utd Facebook.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

AEU teach a lesson

Cambodia U-16's. Back Row LtoR: Sovann, Dinarong, Sokheng, Mesa, Chanpolin, Ravann. Front Row: Baraing, Noeut, Sodavid,  Ratana, Senteang - click to enlarge.
Sam Schweingruber will shave half a dozen names off his player roster for the Cambodia U-16 national squad after this weekend. The team will be jetting off to Myanmar on 18 August for the AFF U-16 Youth Championship with their first game against Australia two days later. Earlier this morning, the squad played their first practice match, against the adult Asia Euro University team, and came unstuck, with a 4-0 defeat. AEU have just been relegated from the Metfone C-League and impressed many observers this season, but found the going tough in the first-half of today's game. The half-time score was nil-nil and the best chance of an otherwise nondescript opening half fell to Chhuot Senteang, who free and racing down on goal, sent his drive inches wide of the upright. The U-16s were without Sraing Titchhy, sitting forlornly on the touchlines with a knee injury and included six Phnom Penh Crown youngsters, four from Svay Rieng and one from Boeung Ket in the starting line-up. Svang Samnang replaced Sem Mesa in goal for the U-16s at the break and was called into action to make three telling saves in the opening eight minutes. With AEU piling on the pressure, two goals in just under a minute, fifteen minutes in, swung the balance of the match firmly in AEU's favour. On 70 minutes AEU netted a third and though In Sodavid struck a fierce shot which Mak Theara finger-tipped over the bar, AEU made sure of the victory with their final goal with eight minutes to go. It was a lesson for the U-16s who worked hard in the first-half but succumbed a little too easily after the break. Schweingruber expressed his disappointment after the game and knows he has his work cut out over the next two weeks to gel his squad together for matches against Australia, Brunei, Vietnam and hosts Myanmar. 23 of the 25 squad members got some playing time with only Sath Rozak and Mat Nuron not getting on the pitch. The coaching staff, including Crown Academy head coach Bouy Dary, will reduce the squad to twenty names over the next few days. The players who played against AEU were: Mesa (Samnang/Sokundara/Chanvuthy), Noeut (Chansopheak), Sovann, Dinarong (K Chhaya), Baraing (Khantey/Phearath), Sodavid, Chanpolin (Sakrovy), Ravann (Piphop), Ratana (Muslim), Sokheng (Ponvuthy), Senteang (Dara). Subs not used: Nuron, Rozak. Injured: Titchhy.
Coach Sam Schweingruber practicing a little magic