Sunday, January 24, 2010

Positive in defeat

Cambodia's starting XI: (back row, LtoR): Tiny, Rady, Yaty, Sokngorn, Sovannrithy, Thavrak, (front row): Narith, Sokumpheak, Soseila, Borey, Chhaya.
South Korea have a worthy reputation when it comes to football and World Cup qualification and as we saw in yesterday's friendly match at Olympic Stadium between the Cambodian national team and Korean collegiate side Ulsan University, their strength in depth is pretty impressive. The team that faced Cambodia yesterday don't even play in the top two professional leagues in South Korea and yet they gave an assured performance to beat Cambodia's best 1-0. Okay, a draw would've been a fair result, both sides created a few chances and the only goal came from a wicked deflection, but it's a reminder that Cambodia has some way to go before they can match the best that Asia can offer. For national coach Scott O'Donell, it's all part of the learning process. "I like to win, I wasn't happy that we lost but there were some positive performances. We've still got a lot of work to do in our attacking third - selecting the right options and having the confidence to shoot - but I was happy with the 2nd half performance, the effort was outstanding and the attitude was good. We used the man advantage until the final third, but they defended well, they were well organized like most Korean teams are. I would've liked a result but you never get what you deserve in football. It was a great experience for the players to be up against bigger, stronger boys. Hopefully we'll learn from that."
It could've been a very different story if Kuoch Sokumpheak hadn't rolled his shot wide of the post from 12 yards in the 2nd minute. Five minutes later, the impressive Lee Dong Kun struck a drive which took a looping deflection off the shoulder of Tieng Tiny, leaving Sou Yaty in the Cambodian goal completely flat-footed for the opening goal. The college outfit looked dangerous going forward with incisive passing and Kun struck the foot of the post on 15 minutes. Yaty came out well to block a shot from the Ulsan skipper Lee Sang Gi on 26 minutes after Kun had carved open the opportunity as Cambodia found it hard to get into the game. They did up their effort just before half-time but Keo Sokngorn and Sokumpheak couldn't find a way past Yang Jin Ung in the Ulsan goal.
A more determined Cambodia came out for the second half and Chan Rithy struck the crossbar with a thumping drive within a minute of the restart. Their bright start received a boost when Yoo Joo Hun was dismissed for a 2nd bookable offense even though the referee failed to notice he'd booked the same player twice, until his linesman pointed it out to him. Very embarrassing for the man in the middle, Sreng Hao Dy. Cambodia pressed with Khim Borey shooting just over and Sokumpheak sending a header skidding wide when he found himself unmarked ten yards out. The game got a bit juicy as both teams gave no quarter and the tackles came flying in thick and fast. On 82 minutes Cambodia's best chance went begging. Sokumpheak fed Sokngorn who drove the ball goalwards where keeper Ung got a touch, the ball struck Tieng Tiny a yard out and agonisingly looped over the bar. Despite their pressing, Cambodia couldn't find an equalizer and the collegiate team recorded their hard-earned success. The match attendance was 5,000.
Although this one-off game didn't bring Cambodia the win they'd hoped for, it was a rare opportunity for the team to get together, train together, and play together and with World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualification on the horizon in October, this is exactly the type of international experience that Scott O'Donell wants his team to have on a much more regular basis. The forthcoming Hun Sen Cup matches and the start of the CPL season will be upon us in no time, so it's vital that the powers that be produce a constructive program of international matches with October at the forefront of their thinking, and quickly.
The Cambodian line-up: Yaty, Rady, Sovannrithy (Chanbunrith 81), Tiny, Thavrak, Narith (Chanthan 76), Borey (Sothearith 87), Sokngorn, Soseila (Rithy 6, (Kumpheak 75)), Chhaya, Sokumpheak (capt).
Kuoch Sokumpheak (10) leads out the Cambodia national team in red
Before the kick-off. LtoR: Nov Soseila, Sou Yaty and Kuoch Sokumpheak
LtoR: San Narith, Keo Sokngorn, Khim Borey and Chan Chhaya
LtoR: Om Thavrak, Sun Sovannrithy, Tieng Tiny, Pheak Rady
Cambodia capt Kuoch Sokumpheak with Ulsan's Lee Sang Gi and the match officials
Cambodia's coach Scott O'Donell (right) and his assistant Bouy Dary face the tv cameras after the match

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