Thursday, January 21, 2010

O'Donell's view

Scott O'Donell, Cambodia's national football coach
I talked to Cambodia's national football coach Scott O'Donell at lunchtime today to get his thoughts on Saturday's international friendly encounter between his Cambodian national squad and a visiting unknown quantity, in the form of South Korean collegiate team Ulsan University. The game will be played at the Olympic Stadium from 3pm, is being televised live and has been arranged through the national team's links with Korean-owned telecommunications partner, KTC. For the life of me I can't find out anything at all about Ulsan University, though the industrial city of Ulsan has two other professional clubs that play in the K-League and National Leagues, whilst University football appears to be a feeder into these competitions. Scott admitted he knew as little as me. "I know nothing at all about the opposition. They arrived Wednesday, trained that afternoon, have a squad of 22 players and faced Preah Khan Reach on Thursday [whom they beat 3-1]. But it's a good opportunity to get the national team together and will be a good experience to play against a South Korean team, as they are normally well organized and bigger players than our own. I will play the same formation, 4-4-2, as I have before."

In selecting his squad for this one-off international friendly, Scott has kept faith with the core of the Under-23 team that performed in the recent SEA Games and bolstered it with some familiar and experienced faces. Returning to the international fold are the Naga Corp trio of Om Thavrak, Kim Bunchanrith and Pok Chanthan, as well as Phnom Penh Crown's tricky left winger Chan Rithy. The 20-man squad have been training at the national football center just outside the capital for the past four days and will train on the Olympic pitch on Friday. "I wanted to retain the core of the Under-23 team from the SEA Games as in my opinion they performed well for me over the last 3-4 months, both in training and in the games. I've added a few senior players who've played with me before and who are players I believe can add valuable experience, on and off the field. However, this is by no means the final squad for the national team." 2010 will be a key year for Cambodian football in the international calendar. "The focus this year will be on the full national team with World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October, so I've put a proposal to the Federation to get the players together more regularly for training and more regular international matches as well." Whether his blueprint for the national team comes to fruition remains to be seen, but whatever happens, Scott's preparation for this friendly match won't change from the norm. "I will approach this game as I do every other game. I'm treating the training sessions in exactly the same way. There's no such thing as friendly games. We go out there to win, win everything, try to be competitive and I want the players to go out there and perform. This is a good chance for them to show the Cambodian public what they are capable of. We want to do well and we want to win the game."

All of the Cambodian players have been involved in their club sides' Hun Sen Cup qualifying matches in recent weeks, with Kuoch Sokumpheak on fire for his team, Khemara Keila. Sokumpheak netted 18 goals in their three matches recently, including a 10-goal haul against Arizon, in a match which also saw his sent off. He was the golden boot winner in last season's cup competition. Scott views the Hun Sen Cup as a real positive for his future plans. "My coaching staff will be at all the future Hun Sen Cup games to identify new talent. That's one of the beauties of the competition. There are some teams we've never seen before and we hope there are some good, young, raw players, and if they show the right ability, we can bring them into the national set-up for training. I've already seen some games in the provinces, at Svay Rieng and Kep. Whilst I'm very supportive of having foreign players in the CPL, I think it's a good idea for the Hun Sen Cup to give locals only a chance against provincial teams and let the teams show what they're capable of, without the foreign players involved."

This is the national team's first game of a very important year. October is the pinnacle of the year with a raft of important qualifying games yet there is no schedule or build-up of international friendlies and as yet, we are still in the dark regarding the fixtures for the Cambodian Premier League season and the Super 4 competition, and how that schedule will impact on the national team. Added to that, Scott's one-year contract will expire in May and in my opinion to ensure continuity it would be in everyone's best interests to secure his future for at least the rest of the year. I await developments with a tinge of apprehension.

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Blogger Me said...

ulsan confuese me as well

last season i saw persija play one of the ulsan teams but to this day i still don t know which one!

January 23, 2010 at 3:45 AM  

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