The Cambodian U21 team had planned to fly to Brunei tomorrow to participate in the 2012 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy friendly competition, but because of the last-minute withdrawal of defending champions Thailand due to “unforeseen circumstances”, they departed from Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday morning.
The Thai withdrawal and subsequent re-arrangement of the remaining 10 teams was revealed by Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Hamid Hj Mohd Jaafar, permanent secretary of Brunei’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, during a press conference yesterday at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Bandar Seri Begawan, where all matches will be played.
Hosts Brunei were originally drawn in Group A with Singapore, Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Laos, but will now take Thailand’s place in Group B alongside Timor Leste, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia, to leave the groups balanced.
Instead of facing Vietnam in their opening tie, Cambodia will now come up against home side Brunei on Saturday. The fixture will bring together South Korean compatriots Lee Tae Hoon and Kwon Oh Son as coaches of Cambodia and Brunei respectively.
The organisers have put up US$15,000 for the winner of the tournament, which sees its final played on March 9.
PKR men blaze a trail across region
Cambodia’s 18-member squad features seven players from the high-flying Preah Khan Reach side, who returned from a successful trip to Malaysia on Sunday before leaving for Brunei yesterday.
PKR carried their domestic dominance into their first foray in the Malaysia FA Cup competition with an opening-round win over Penang AUCMS on Saturday.
The Cambodian side, who won their second successive Samdech Hun Sen Cup title the previous weekend, beat the Malaysian third-tier club 2-1 at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Young striker Phany I Rotha broke the deadlock midway through the first half, and Prak Mony Udom doubled PKR’s lead on 85 minutes. The home side pegged one back with two minutes left on the clock to set up a nervous finale for the visitors, who held on for victory.
PKRl face another third-tier team, SPA FC, who trounced Johor MBJB FC 3-0 in their first-round encounter, on March 10 in a last-16 clash.
If PKR continue their winning streak in the quarter-finals, they will face either last year’s runners-up Kelantan FA or three-time champions Kuala Lumpur FA.
Futsal team start qualifier campaign
Meanwhile, in Bangkok, Cambodia’s national futsal team will face Australia this morning in their opening game of the 2012 AFC Futsal Championship qualifying tournament.
Cambodia head coach Hok Sottitya and his assistants have been trying hard to maintain high spirits in the team despite a daunting task ahead.
“Some players have compared their [diminutive] sizes to their opponents, such as Australian players. But I have been reminding them not to be too concerned about this problem,” Hok Sottitya said.
“In the futsal competition, the larger players cannot do everything on the pitch. They would be fined all the time [if they used their size to their advantage].”
The former Cambodian futsal team captain revealed a cautious strategy ahead of their Australia clash.
“We will not try to push into the opponent’s territory too quickly.
“We can start by strengthening the defence . . . and when our opponent looks tired, we will go on the counter-attack,” he said.
The coach noted that the accommodation and food were satisfactory, but said a two-hour commute to the Krungthep Thonburi University campus from their hotel each day could prove tiresome.
During three previous appearances at the Futsal qualifiers in 2004, 2006 and 2010, Cambodia avoiding meeting Australia, who joined the ASEAN Zone in 2006 and progressed to the quarter-finals of the tournament proper in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
Today’s Futsal Fixtures
All matches played at Krongthep Thonburi University’s Indoor Hall in Bangkok
Australia v Cambodia – 11:30am
Vietnam v Malaysia – 2:30pm
Indonesia v Philippines – 4:30pm
Thailand v Myanmar – 7:00pm