Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dent in national pride

The Cambodian U-19 national football team played their opening match in the AFF U-19 Youth Championships in Saigon Tuesday afternoon. I previewed the tournament here. With former national coach Prak Sovannara in charge, the U-19's have been in Saigon for a week or so fine tuning themselves for the championships and are in a real tough group A alongside Australia, Singapore and Thailand. It was the latter who they faced in their first game of the round-robin group matches. And Cambodia were beaten 3-0 by their bitter rivals, whilst Singapore drew 1-1 against Australia. Cambodia went behind a few minutes before half-time and then lost red-carded Ministry of National Defense centre-half Thong Oudom (pictured) after 57 minutes, making their task an impossible one. So it proved when Thailand added further goals in the 73rd minute and six minutes from time. In Group B, hosts Vietnam beat Malaysia 2-0 while Myanmar were awarded a 3-0 win for a walkover following Timor Leste's failure to arrive in time. The 3-nil reversal leaves Cambodia with a mountain to climb to progress through the group stage. They now face Singapore Thursday (6 August) and Australia, the joint favourites, on Saturday (8 August). With the odds stacked against them, the U-19 players need to take every ounce of tournament experience they can from these three games as quite a few of them will be called up again soon as part of the U-23 squad to take part in the SEA Games in December.

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