Cambodia head coach Inoue Kazunori described Saturday’s goalless draw against a much-changed Philippines side a regrettable result after his side finished distant runners-up behind China in Group G of the AFC U19 Championship 2018 qualifiers at the Olympic Stadium.
As expected, China topped the group after a three-match sweep, beating Myanmar in the final tie 1-0 and thereby opening up a bright chance for Cambodia to finish a respectable second with six points if they could beat the Philippines, who had conceded a whopping 12 goals in two defeats at the hands of both China and Myanmar.
A victory from the game would have bettered Cambodia’s chances of making it to the finals as one of the five best runners-up but that prospect dimmed as the home side could only salvage one point after missing a bundle of decent chances, marked by some poor finishing and robust defending from the Filipinos.
With nine other group matches yet to to be completed, Cambodia will have to wait until at least November 8 to know whether their four points will be good enough to place them among the top five runners-up.
“We expected a win and three points to have a better chance of qualifying for the finals so a draw was certainly not what we wanted,” a disappointed Kazunori said after the game.
“We are still weak in the basics like ball control, passing and finishing. We had so many chances but failed to convert them. [But] I must say the players did their best,” the coach said, as counterpart Jose Maria Aberasturi claimed it was the best he had seen from his players over the three games.
Having been narrowly beaten by China in the opener, Cambodia’s dramatic comeback from two goals down against Myanmar had considerably boosted team morale.
Weighed against the backdrop of the Philippine demolitions, it seemed as if it would be only a matter of time before Cambodia pulled away.
But the reality on the pitch was something different from what the Ca mbodian players and the fans in the stands would have been expecting.
Led by second-choice goal-keeper Jessie Reil Semblante, the Filipinos were in no mood to relent at any part of the game.
Sin Kakkada, who was hailed a national hero for his two superb free-kick goals against Myanmar, had several prominent chances as did Sieng Chanthea. But on the break, there were some decent Philippine attempts that had the Young Warriors worried.
China make finals
China earned the distinction of being the first team to qualify from this cycle after doing just enough to beat Myanmar. Liu Ruofan, who scored twice in China’s 6-0 win over the Philippines, scored the only goal of the game in the 38th minute.
While China needed only a draw to head the group, it was a must-win for Myanmar after their 3-2 loss to Cambodia. Despite a spirited effort, Myanmar could not unlock a stubborn Chinese defence.