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Trying to tame Young Lions

Agu Casmir of Singapore (centre) battles for the ball against Cambodia’s Sun Sovannarith (left) and Teng Tiny during the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta. The nations’ U23 teams will face off today at the same stadium in the SEA Games.

Cambodia’s started what promises to be a miserable 26th SEA Games campaign in Indonesia with a demoralising 6-0 loss to the hosts on Monday. However, fans back at home are still willing their support for the U23 team who face their easiest game of the Group A fixture list today against Singapore.

However, the city state will be buoyed by their opening performance on Monday which saw them hold reigning champions Malaysia to a 0-0 stalemate.

In head-to-head results from their past four meetings at the SEA Games, Singapore have a clean sheet of victories of the Kingdom, winning 2-1 in 1997, 2-0 in 1999, 5-0 in 2001, and 5-1 in 2003.

Hok Sochetra, Cambodia’s celebrated former national team striker and now coach of the national futsal team, noted that the current U23 squad were playing at an inferior level to their regional rivals, with particular weakness on sending and receiving the ball.

“Problems which we should note are that most of our players have started playing football when they are already adults, while our opponents in the group have all gotten training since they were children,” added Hok Sochetra, who bagged a Cambodian record seven goals at the SEA Games during the 1997 and 1999 editions including one against Singapore.

The pioneering practice of having the U23 players playing together at club level as the Young Lions in the S.League, has often reaped benefits for Singapore.

Following their draw with Malaysia, coach Slobodan Pavkovic of Serbia told the official ASEAN Football Federation website ( that they were confident of progressing to the knockout semifinals. “As long as we continue to be disciplined, I think that we can go far with this team,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cambodia’s thrashing in their opening match piles the pressure on South Korean coach Lee Tae Hoon with some fans already clamouring for his resignation.

The Cambodians seemed unable to address fundamental problems in defence, especially in the last thirds of both halves. Goalkeeper Sou Yaty had performed admirably during their international friendly against Nepal last month but on the Monday, he failed to combine effectively with defenders Sok Sovan, Sok Rithy, Pheak Rady and Touch Pancharong.

Up front, Chhin Choeun, Phoung Soksana and skipper Khuon Laboravy were hesitant when presented with chances to penetrate their opponent’s area.

Singapore boast three SEA Games silver medals and six bronzes from men’s football, while Cambodia have never even put themselves in contention for a place on the podium by advancing from the group stage.

Many Cambodian fans have already resigned themselves to another ignominious   welcome home of their team, as they watch with amazement at the events of the other group unfold. East Timor, widely regarded as an underdog at the biennial competition having also never won a medal, currently sit top of Group B with two wins out of two. 


Today’s Fixtures
Cambodian kick off times shown

  • Malaysia v Thailand – 4pm
  • Myanmar v Brunei – 4pm
  • Cambodia v Singapore – 7pm
  • Vietnam v East Timor – 7pm


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