Phnom Penh Crown Academy bowed out of the 2013 Frenz-FAM U15 ASEAN Champions Trophy on Saturday with a close 2-1 defeat to neighbouring rivals Vietnam PVF Academy.
The result meant the Cambodians were unable to lift off the foot of the Group A table, ending their campaign without a win and just two draws from 10 fixtures.
Yeu Muslim had given Crown hope at Olympic Stadium on Saturday with a sumptuous lob after 16 minutes. The visitors stood firm to equalise just before the hour mark through Ho Minh Di and went on to grab a winner on 68 minutes via a Nguyen Vu Tin strike.
“It was good to be one goal up but we played a little too defensively,” said Crown head coach Sam Schweingruber, who was covering for Academy coach Bouy Dary off sick.
“It’s a product of us playing all these games against strong opposition and trying to limit the damage. I liked that we were well disciplined and more switched on than in recent games.”
PVF face Frenz Malaysia A is the last remaining Group A match, with a win guaranteeing the Vietnamese top spot. A loss, however, would see the Malaysians beat their opponents to the crucial second place, which yields entry to the semi-finals.
Frenz Indonesia have already secured their berth in the knockout stage as winners of Group B, with Frenz Malaysia B odds-on to join them.
The overall champions collect $50,000, with the runners-up pocketing $25,000. The two-leg semi-finals will be contested on August 3 and 17, and the two-leg final is slated for August 24 and September 1.
A selection of Crown boys will join other teenage stars to make up the national squad bound for the 2013 AFF U16 Youth Championships, which kicks off in Naypyidaw on August 20.
Cambodia meet Australia in their first Group A encounter on the opening day and will also encounter Brunei, Vietnam and hosts Myanmar.
Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos and the Philippines make up Group B of the ninth edition of the annual tournament. All games are playing at Zabuthiri Stadium with the grand final set for September 2.
“Looking ahead to the AFF [championships], we’ve got to work very hard over the next three weeks before we go to Myanmar,” said Schweingruber, who will lead the team.
“Our dream is to qualify out of the group of five countries. Getting positive results will obviously not be easy.
“But as a team we have shown that over 90 minutes we can play disciplined football. Vietnam will play a similar style to what we saw today and it looks to me that we have a chance against Brunei, Vietnam and Myanmar.
“If Australia bring their strongest team, we will find ourselves up against world-class opposition,” the coach added.