Battle lines have been drawn for today’s knock-out quarter-final matches in the country’s most prestigious open football tournament, the Samdech Hun Sen Cup, as the heavyweights cast aside their Metfone C-League campaigns to focus on a piece of silverware that every team covets the most.
The blockbuster tie involving last season’s league play-off finalists Svay Rieng and Boeung Ket Rubber Field at the Olympic Stadium garners riveting attention with their arch rivalry playing out yet again in what is a high stakes contest.
Boeung Ket will be seeking revenge for that 1-0 defeat while Svay Rieng are equally determined to fend it off in the competition they won in both 2011 and 2012.
“Everybody in the club, not just the players but all the staff including myself, want the side to get past the quarter-finals. The fact that we have never gone beyond this round before does not mean it won’t happen,” Boeung Ket coach Prak Vuthy told the Post.
“Our formation now is 4-3-2-1. However, we can adapt ourselves to changing situations on the pitch.”
The Kampong Cham side’s trump card this year is undoubtedly striker Khoun Laboravy, who paradoxically crossed over from the Svay Rieng stables during the off-season. The 25-year-old’s long association with the team he chose to leave will work to the advantage of his new employers.
As Prak Vuthy pointed out, Laboravy, winner of the previous league season’s golden boot, is one of the best players in the country and apart from being an effective right winger, he can easily fit into any other key position.
How does the striker himself feel about this transfer and the brouhaha that it is producing even to this day? Having spent seven years with Svay Rieng, Laboravy obviously is privy to some valuable outputs which will come in handy for his current team-mates and the coach.
“Svay Rieng is like my family and the team’s coach treated me like his brother. It’s hard to describe my feelings but as a professional footballer, I have got to fight for my new team now,” the striker said.
To a great measure, Laboravy’s star alliance with highly talented fellow forward Chan Vathanaka is working well and Prak Vuthy will be hoping to see this duo combine with Dutch striker Elroy van der Hooft. The trio is capable of tearing apart the best of defensive set ups.
Meanwhile, Boeung Ket defender Touch Pancharong is on the mend following an ankle injury and is expected to be fit for this crucial game.
Despite blowing hot and cold in the past few weeks, Svay Rieng coach Sam Vandeth is leaving nothing to chance, though he concedes that Boeung Ket are now a much stronger outfit than when they lost the league final last year.
“We have been preparing for two weeks with this game in mind. Our main focus will be defence,” Sam Vandeth told the Post in a pre-match analysis of the match.
The coach, however, dismissed the loss of Laboravy as one of those harsh realities within professional football.
Incidentally, the defending league champions are beset with major injury worries. Captain Prak Mony Udom, the most experienced player in the side, is yet to recover from a strained calf injury he picked up recently and will in all probability sit this match out. A niggling ankle injury will keep defender Lay Raksemy out as well.
Holders clash with Kirivong
After the Boeung Ket-Svay Rieng encounter, Cup holders Naga Corp get down to the latest step in defending their treasure. Their first major hurdle after a comfortable progression past the group stage comes in the form of Kirivong Sok Sen Chey.
Naga’s current streak may not be sparkling but the side has often proved in the past that it can rise spectacularly above surface form. If Naga plays to its known strengths, the visitors from Takeo may find the going tough.
Meanwhile at the Old Stadium, Phnom Penh Crown carry their good league form as the table toppers to the pitch against Build Bright United, who are proving to be an unpredictable sort. It may be a hard task for the University backed side to match strides with a well rounded outfit like Crown.
Both National Police Commissary and Ministry of National Defence are known to play tough, if not rough. This is one quarter-final match up that can throw up shocks or surprises. Whoever comes out on top in their game at Chang Meng training centre, one safe prediction is that sparks are bound to fly.
At the Olympic Stadium
Boeung Ket v Svay Rieng – 3:30pm
Naga v Kirivong Sok Sen Chey – 6pm
At the Old Stadium
Phnom Penh Crown v BBU – 3pm
At Cheng Meng
MND v National Police – 3pm