Three consecutive defeats in Jakarta last week meant Cambodia already knew they were the first side to be eliminated from the men’s football tournament at the 26th SEA Games going into yesterday’s Group A encounter with Malaysia. A 4-1 defeat by the defending champions at the Gelong Bung Larno Stadium saw Lee Tae-Hoon’s side return home with their tails between their legs having conceded 16 goals with just two in reply.
Chhin Chhoeun, who scored a wondrous goal against Singapore last Wednesday, doubled his tally in Jakarta with a 61st minute strike yesterday after Malaysia had finished the first half 3-0 up.
Despite the heroics from the National Defence Ministry right winger, some all too common defensive frailties allowed Malaysia to add a fourth in injury time.
On Friday, regional powerhouses Thailand had recorded a comfortable 4-0 victory over Cambodia, who were without skipper Khuon Laboravy and inspirational keeper Sou Yaty due to injuries, while central midfielder Chhun Sothearath was suspended.
The Thais showed no mercy to their neighbours, edging 1-0 ahead 1-0 in the first session before netting three more in the last 20 minutes.
Of the few positives to take back from the SEA Games, Chhin Chhoeun should feel proud of his scores while stoppers Sou Yaty and Friday’s replacement Um Vichet both made fine contributions between the sticks.
Meanwhile, South Korean coach Lee faces the gauntlet back at home with many Cambodian football fans calling for his resignation through social media websites. However, Lee told official ASEAN football website after the match against Thailand that Cambodia had little expectations from such a tough group.
“We were given some hard lessons but I think that it is important we take these lessons to better prepare us for the future” he said.
“We have some players with experience of having played international matches before but for most, they are still young and they did not have the exposure at this level. The campaign was not a total loss. The players have been learning from game to game, and I think that they are better players as compared to when they first came to Jakarta.
“I believe that this team can only get stronger and they will definitely be better at the next SEA Games in 2013 [in Naypyidaw, Myanmar],” he added.
Cambodia may, however, take some comfort in the fact that yesterday’s other Group A game ensured their bitter rivals Thailand also failed to make the knockout stage. The 13-time SEA Games champions, who ended the tempestuous match with nine men, were beaten 3-1 by Indonesia, a result which secured the hosts safe passage to the semifinals and condemned Thailand to a second early elimination in as many tournaments.
The runners-up spot in Group A seems likely to be taken by Malaysia, who face Indonesia in the concluding group fixture on Thursday, while Singapore require a resounding victory over Thailand and hope the hosts can do them a favour by beating the holders.
In Group B ties played at Lebak Bulus stadium yesterday, Myanmar ensured their advance to the semis with a 5-0 thumping of the Philippines. Vietnam will join them in the next round after an 8-0 rout of Brunei.
Surprise package East Timor saw their hopes of qualifying vanish via a 3-0 defeat to Laos yesterday, rendering subsequent Group B games tomorrow and Thursday academic.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY DAN RILEY