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Perennial Cup bridesmaids Naga Corp open final phase

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Naga Corp kick off their Hun Sen Cup campaign today and will look to progress to the final for a record fourth time. Photograph: Sreng Meng Srun/Phnom Penh Post

The final phase of the seventh Samdech Hun Sen Cup starts today, with Group A and B battles playing out at Olympic Stadium and Old Stadium.

Naga Corp, who have yet to lift the trophy despite making the final of Cambodia’s premier club competition three times, will get things under way in Group A with a 2pm clash against North Centre qualifiers Kratie.

Naga’s genial head coach Prak Sovannara, who took them to runners-up spot earlier this year, left the club for the national team top job two weeks ago. Assistant coach Lim Noun has been promoted to replace his departing mentor.

In the 4pm kick-off at Olympic Stadium, 2010 champions Ministry of National Defence take on Khan Chamkamon, one of three teams emerging from the Phnom Penh Centre preliminaries.

The opening game for Group B at Old Stadium features a 2pm match-up between National Police Commissary and Kampot, winners of the South Centre qualifiers. 2011 runners-up Build Bright United will then face Western University, who were forced to qualify via the Phnom Penh Centre preliminaries after getting relegated in their debut season in the top-flight Metfone C-League this year.

The four groups of the final phase each consist of two top-eight finishers from the 2012 Metfone C-League drawn with two teams from the regional qualifying rounds. Games will be held every Thursday with groups A and C playing at Olympic Stadium and groups B and D hosted by Old Stadium.

Group C includes MCL champions Boeung Ket Rubber Field, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey, East Centre toppers Svay Reang and West Centre’s Pailin.

In Group D, Cup holders Preah Khan Reach have been bracketed with fellow two-time winners Phnom Penh Crown, as well as Central Centre victors Preah Vihear and Phnom Penh Centre qualifiers Khan Por Sen Chey.

The group stage will end on January 24, with the top two teams from each group advancing to quarter-finals at Olympic Stadium a week later. The seventh Hun Sen Cup champions will be crowned on February 16.

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