The Suzuki Cup's minnows - Cambodia
I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record but I still can't understand why the press here in Cambodia, well the English-language press as I don't read Khmer, has remained completely silent about the upcoming AFF 2008 Suzuki Cup
tournament in which Cambodia, the competition's underdogs, minnows, no-hopers, call them what you will, will pit themselves against the best countries in the region. It's Cambodia's world cup if you like and yet the column inches devoted to their build-up, preparation and chances of success has been precisely zero, zilch, nada, nowt. Piss poor is how I see it. I can go online and find pages of reports from the other countries but for Cambodia its been a barren build-up to their biggest competition for years. Some of the other countries like Vietnam, Myanmar and Malaysia have had their teams in training camps for the last two months and have played up to ten friendlies and a warm-up tournament to get to the peak of match fitness. Cambodia's preparation has been considerably less, with the national Premier League only finishing its final games last weekend, leaving the national coach Prak Sovannara with just two weeks to prepare his squad for the competition. Obviously that's not nearly enough time to get them in the right shape physically or mentally, but its as good as he's going to get so they'll have to deal with it as best they can. The squad are preparing themselves at the National Football Centre 17kms outside of the capital, training each morning and evening before they fly to Jakarta three days before their first game. Their last serious match together was the 2-1 success over Brunei in the final game of the qualifying tournament in Phnom Penh on 25 October when Khim Borey's goal fifteen minutes from time sent them through as runners-up to Laos. In the qualifiers, they also beat Laos 3-2, drew 2-2 with Timor Leste and lost 3-2 against the Philippines.
The competition has been spilt into two groups. Cambodia are in Group A where the games will be played in Jakarta and they will kick-off the tournament against the current holders and favourites Singapore next Friday (5th Dec). Singapore themselves, coached by Serb Raddy Avramovic, have just finished their domestic S-League championships so are in the same boat as Cambodia, but their squad is far more experienced in international competition and are tipped to win the Suzuki Cup for a third consecutive time. Cambodia will meet co-hosts Indonesia in their second game on the 7th, and then finish their group matches against Myanmar on the 9th. In the Thailand-hosted Group B, which has been switched to Phuket as the airport problems in Bangkok escalate, the host country managed by Brit Peter Reid will face Laos, Vietnam and Malaysia. The semi-finals will be played from 16-21 December and the two-legged final on 24 and 28 December. In all honesty Cambodia are not expected to progress or even get a point from their group matches. Their experience at this level of competition is virtually non-existent and with their obvious weaknesses in defence, and with so little time to put it right, I'm hopeful the coach will get his team playing an all-out offensive gameplan. The matches will be televised, so even if the English-language newspapers remain silent, you should be able to watch the games on tv here in Asia. Come on Cambodia!