Spare a thought
Prak Sovannara took over as Cambodia's national coach in July 2008 after a string of poor performances under the former South Korean coach and the forecast looked bleak when a three week stint of practice matches in South Korea, produced losses in six of eight games to university and domestic teams. Not easily deterred, Sovannara, who played for the national team in the 1990s and who has coached domestic side Phnom Penh Empire and the national youth team, also cast aside crushing friendly defeats, 7-1 to Myanmar and 7-0 to Indonesia, to put some fire into the belly of his players for the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying tournament held in Phnom Penh last October. With wins over Laos (3-2) and Brunei (2-1), a draw with Timor Leste (2-2) and a loss to Philippines (2-3), his youthful Cambodian team, with an average age of 22, qualified as runners-up for the finals. This was a real success for the fans and players alike to rejoice in, exemplified by the whole squad running to throw their shirts into the 15,000 crowd at the end of the qualifiers. In the December finals Cambodia came unstuck against Singapore (0-5) and Indonesia (0-4) and narrowly lost to Laos 3-2 but could hold their heads high in competing at the senior level of Asean football. In April, he took his young squad to Bangladesh for the AFC Challenge Cup group stage and narrowly failed to qualify, beating Macau 2-1 but losing to Bangladesh and Myanmar, by a 1-nil scoreline on both occasions. He was looking to build the squad ahead of the SEA Games in Laos in December until he was told that his place was to be taken by Scott O'Donell at the weekend.