Local football spectators were left bewildered after the U23 national team were dealt a 6-0 defeat by the Young Lions Sunday, while officials downplay concern.
FOOTBALL fans turned out in their thousands at Olympic Stadium on Sunday to see the international friendly between the U23 sides of Cambodia and Singapore, only to witness their home team humiliated 6-0 by the visitors. Many spectators left the stands early, distraught at the overwhelming scoreline, casting major doubts on Cambodia’s chances in the upcoming SEA Games in Laos in December.
“This is embarrassing. I think I have seen enough,” remarked Meas Thy as the Cambodian defence began to crumble in the second half.
“I am surprised we couldn’t even score a goal,” said 25-year-old Chy Samoeun, who had stayed til the end in the hope of a consolation effort. “This is really not good enough.”
Ouk Sokdara, who attended all the Cambodian matches in last year’s Suzuki Cup qualifying tournament played at Olympic Stadium, claimed the team now is worse than before. “They are not committed, and I don’t know what the coach is doing that we can lose like this,” he said. “The last team did well and won matches. If we can lose at home like this, then what will happen if we go abroad?”
Another local football enthusiast, Luy Seyha, said Cambodia has a long way to go to compete successfully at international level. “If we continue to lose like this at home, fans will not like to come to spend their time and money to watch our country embarrassed,” he noted.
However, Lor Samedy, an official of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, said he believed that the team performed well and did not want to blame the players or the coaching staff. “The Singaporeans are stronger and bigger than our players,” he asserted. “Our boys tried and gave a good fight, but they have no power like the Singapore team. We need to train hard and condition our players well so they can be strong to compete with other countries.”
Meanwhile, former national team coach and current technical director of Preah Khan Reach, Prak Sovannara, commended the players for putting on a good show, considering 80 percent had taken part in the league playoff finals the previous day. “The players tried their best,” he stated. “They were obviously tired after the first 35 minutes, having played the day before.
“I cannot judge the team’s technical approach,” he continued. “It all depends on the coach’s strategies. As you can see, its only a friendly match, and so I think the coach wanted to test different players for the future, and this experience will be useful for them.”
Prak Sovannara also refused to write off Cambodia in the near future. “I don’t think the team will do badly in the SEA Games. The team is made up of 80 percent of the players I took to the Suzuki cup in Indonesia. The Singapore side consists of foreign players from Nigeria and European clubs, which makes them stronger, but I am sure that [our] players will peak before the SEA Games, if they prepare well.”
Football federation spokesman May Tola shared the disappointment of the fans. “The result was not what we wanted,” he said. “The fans all came to support the team and were hoping for a better performance, but we will take the positives from the match and improve on them.
“We may not have expected to win Singapore. However, is was a surprising scoreline at the end of the day,” he added. “In the Suzuki Cup [Singapore] presented a much stronger team than this, but we played better against them, so we really didn’t expect to lose with such a wide margin.”
May Tola ruled out the effects of players playing the day before. “It’s obvious the players suffered from fatigue, but that shouldn’t be an excuse,” he stated. “Both teams were allowed to make several substitutions, and in fact the coach changed players at intervals of nearly 20 minutes.”
The federation official remained optimistic of the team’s future, despite their humbling to Singapore. “We will come good again soon,” he declared. “We have lined up a training programme for the team, and that will put them in shape for the SEA Games.”