Metfone C-League champions Phnom Penh Crown set off to Kaohsiung in Taiwan tomorrow ahead of next week’s Group B clashes of the 2011 AFC President’s Cup Finals. Crown will face familiar Kyrgyzstan foes Neftchi Kochkor-Ata on Monday before taking on Cup holders Yadanarbon of Myanmar on Wednesday.
Winner of the three-team Group B will face the topper of Group A, which features Turkmenistan’s FC Balkan, FC Istiklol of Tajikistan and the host nation’s No 1 side Taiwan Power Company, in the grand final on September 25.
Crown travel high on confidence having clinched the domestic league title on August 28 and then rolling out two victories in friendlies against the Cambodian U23 national team. The champions edged the SEA Games bound squad 3-2 last Friday at Olympic Stadium before completing a 3-1 win against the same side on Wednesday at the RSN Stadium in Tuol Kork.
Crown coach David Booth of England noted the need to alter their tactics slightly from their league games to cope with the demands of international play.
“It’s important we raise our game as the standard of football will be higher. I know we are capable of improving our game,” he said.
Booth was also aware of the danger of conceding early, and thus forcing them to chase a result.
“From a positive point of view, we always create chances and we need to take advantage of those chances when they come along, and to whoever they come to,” he added.
Crown received a welcome boost with the return on homegrown hero Khim Borey, who completed a season on loan to Thai Premier League team Sisaket FC, a move which coach Booth had instigated.
However, the team’s preparations have been disrupted by uncertainty over their foreign contingency. With each club allowed just two non-nationals in their line-ups for the competition, Crown’s Nigerian duo of Kingsley Njoku and Odion Obadin were hit with difficulties in obtaining visas.
At time of print, it was still unconfirmed whether this issue had been resolved, although club officials said yesterday it seemed likely they would be allowed to travel.
Neftchi, meanwhile, must be fancying their chances after triumphing in all three of their group games played at Olympic Stadium in May. The Kyrgyzstans, who currently share the lead of their domestic league with two-time President’s Cup winners Dordoi-Dynamo, beat Crown 1-0 on their home turf, although both sides fielded under-strength sides with qualification assured. Crown were then under the leadership of Croatian-born coach Bojan Hodak.
Striker Pavel Pavlov and full-back-come-forward Marat Adzhiniiazov are set to star once again.
Defending champions Yadanarbon, however, do not have form on their side. A less than comprehensive advance into the finals from group ties played in Yangon in May has been followed up with a barren run in the Myanmar National League, which has seen them fail to win a game since August 1.
Hitman Yan Paing, however, is always dangerous and is held in high regard by Crown’s Booth, who coached the 28-year-old during his time at the helm of the U23 Myanmar national team.
After flying out tomorrow afternoon, Crown will have a training session on Sunday on the pitch of the Kaohsiung National Stadium pitch, a 40,000 seat stadium built in 2009 for The World Games in Taiwan’s second largest city.
“It’s important that our players go into these two games without any fear or trepidation,” said Booth. “Everyone tells me that Cambodian teams don’t travel too well outside of their country, but I say that we have a great chance to set an example to everyone else with these games in Taiwan.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ANDY BROUWER