The pride of Cambodian football, Phnom Penh Crown, are eagerly anticipating Sunday’s ground-breaking appearance in the final of the 2011 AFC President’s Cup in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Riding a wave of assurance under David Booth, winning twelve and drawing just once since the Englishman took charge, the Metfone C-League champions confirmed their place in the tournament’s showpiece with a 4-0 demolition job over holders Yadanarbon of Myanmar on Wednesday.
The previous best international cup run by a Cambodian club came in 2006 when the now disbanded Khemara Keila made it to the semifinals of the same competition.
Buoyed by the knowledge that Crown had raised the bar, Booth gave his players an inspiring team talk yesterday ahead of Sunday’s final.
“We’ve said all along that you can do this, and now it’s important that you do not change your attitude, your style, because if we do not perform in the final, it will be for nothing,” he said.
“It’s not about me, it’s all about you. You are the ones who’ve worked to win these games, to put yourselves in this position. You’ve worked your socks off and now you have the chance to go back to Cambodia as a winner, something no-one has done before.
“If we stick together, and work together, we can win together,” he added.
Crown had won their other Group B match 3-1 over Kyrgyzstan’s Neftchi Kockor-Ata on Monday. They will now face the winner of Group A, which seems likely to be home side Taiwan Power Company who need just a draw from tonight’s concluding group game against Istiqlol of Tajikistan.
Booth noted that regardless of who they met in the final, it would be no walk in the park.
“It will boil down to which team has the biggest desire, the most determination and who grabs the chance with both hands. This is what we are here for. Nobody will give us anything - you have to take it yourselves,” he told his squad.
Sunday’s showdown will kickoff at 6pm Cambodian time at the Kaohsiung National Stadium. Winner of the final will bag a tidy US$50,000 and gets to keep the gleaming trophy for six months, while the losing club will walk away with $25,000.
Prizes will also be awarded to the tournament’s most valuable player, fair play team and top scorer from games including the group stage. Yadanarbon’s Yan Paing and Istiglol’s Farkhod Tokhirov currently head the charts with five goals a piece, although Crown’s Kingsley Njoku has to chance to better them if he can net two or more in Sunday’s match.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ANDY BROUWER