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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Football is back in the spotlight at BIDC Cup

Football is back in the spotlight at BIDC Cup

091106_19
Coach Scott O'Donell (left) shown in a file photo.

Photo by: Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)
Coach Scott O'Donell (left) shown in a file photo.

BIDC cup 2009 draw

All matches will be shown live on channel TV5
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 8

  • V Ninh Binh v Laos U23 (3:30pm); HAGL v Cambodia U23 (6pm)

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 10

  • V Ninh Binh v HAGL (3:30pm); Cambodia US23 v Laos U23 (6pm)

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 12

  • Laos U23 v HAGL (3:30pm); Cambodia U23 v V Ninh Binh (6pm)

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 14

  • 3rd place playoff (3:30pm); Final (6pm)

The CAMBODIAN national U23 football team’s sights are set firmly on the Southeast Asian Games in Laos next month, and they will use the BIDC Cup, which begins Sunday at the Olympic Stadium, as a gauge of their fitness and match readiness against one of their possible opponents in the SEA Games, Laos, and two of Vietnam’s best club sides, HAGL and VBN.

Cambodia’s last competitive match on home soil was a 6-0 defeat at the hands of the Singapore U23 team on September 27 before national coach Scott O’Donell took his 25-man squad off to Vietnam for a monthlong training camp.

A strict training regimen for the past four weeks at the Thanh Long training facility outside Ho Chi Minh City, together with a series of five practice matches against local opposition, followed closely on the heels of the end of the regular Cambodian Premier League season.

O’Donell views the time away as time well-spent. “The benefits of our stay in Vietnam have been that I’ve got to know the players better, particularly the ones that I have never worked with before. I think the players have also got to know each other better, having spent so much time together,” he said.

“But more importantly, it has allowed me to use this past month to get the players fitter than what they were before we arrived in Vietnam, and to get them thinking on the same wavelength as me regarding how I want them to play.”

However, O’Donell issued a note of caution: “Having said that, anyone who thinks that a one month’s training camp in Vietnam can make up for the lack of coaching, training and regular international exposure these players have received in recent years is kidding themselves.

“Ideally, the coaching staff should have spent this past month fine-tuning for the BIDC Cup and SEA Games, but instead have spent half the time getting the players to fitness levels required to play international football, and the other half of the time getting the players to understand how we want them to play.”

The practice matches played against local teams such as Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City were an important factor in O’Donell’s buildup for next month’s SEA Games, as will be the four BIDC Cup matches.

“The practice matches have been vitally important in terms of seeing if the players have been able to put into practice what we have been working on in training.”

The 25-man Cambodian squad that returned from Vietnam on Thursday will be reduced to 20 before they play their opening game on Sunday, with a few niggling injury worries. But O’Donell’s goal-scoring options have been boosted by the return to fitness of striker Khim Borey, the winner of the CPL’s Golden Boot award in 2008 who missed most of last term with an ankle injury.

O’Donell was full of praise for his squad of players on their return. “I have been very happy with the attitude and effort of the players over the last month ... but it is going to take time for them to adjust to playing the way I want them to play.”

After Laos U23s and Vissai Ninh Binh face each other in the opening match of the BIDC Cup competition, Cambodia will meet Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) under floodlights later in the day.

HAGL, twice winners of the V-League and cup double in the last decade, finished sixth last season but are expected to push for honours next time around and have a smattering of foreign imports in their squad from Brazil, Thailand, Czechoslovakia and Ghana.

O’Donell was clear in his assessment of the task ahead on Sunday. “HAGL are going to be a huge test for the boys. Obviously, they are one of the better teams in Vietnam’s professional V-League.”

“My expectations are the same for every game that we play, whether it be a friendly game or a competitive game. I want the players to go out and try to play good football, and to do the best they can,” he said.

“If every player can come off the field knowing they have given their very best, then I cannot ask for any more. The BIDC Cup will be a good guide for me to see the players performing under pressure in a competitive environment against good-quality teams.”

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