The Cambodian U16 girls national team lost 4-1 to a visiting team of American girls Saturday, but many were impressed by the home team’s improvement
THE Cambodian U16 girls National Football Team played their second-ever game Saturday, another friendly this time on home soil against a team of American girls from Snohomish in Washington state. The game, ending in a 4-1 win for the US team, signified the end of a 10-day visit by the Amercian soccer girls, who came to coach and help promote football for women in Battambang province.
Before the kickoff, the Cambodia National Team received 20 footballs from the Cambodian Football Federation (FFC) as a gesture of support, with FFC General Secretary Ouk Sethycheat travelling up from Phnom Penh to make the presentation and also to watch the friendly match to learn more about the quality of girls football in Battambang.
As expected, the physically superior US girls quickly took control, and after 6 minutes the Cambodian defensive line failed to clear a ball from a corner kick, allowing Tayler Wines to fire her shot from outside the box into the far corner, leaving the keeper no chance.
The US girls, many of them aged only 13 but already playing for over 5 years, enjoyed the free space granted by the Cambodian backs and created more chances. After a handball about 25 metres from goal, 16-year-old Lori Deland clipped in a dangerous free kick. The ball seemed to miss everybody, but somehow Whitney Carter got a touch to deflect the ball into the far corner.
Despite being two down after just 13 minutes, the young Cambodian girls never gave up and tried to implement their coach's advice of playing two-touch football.
With the Cambodians beginning to progress inside the US team's half, a defensive misunderstanding left Mau Reaksmey stealing possession and, with a fine touch, she managed to squeeze the ball around US goalkeeper Ellie Otteson.
It was Cambodia's first shot on target of the game, and the team's second ever in a competitive match. The players and supporters responded with raucous applause, and it took the US girls several minutes to regain momentum in the game. The Americans created several more great chances, with most shots only off target by a little, or the Cambodian defense marshalled by captain Chhoeurn Nipha coping admirably under immense pressure.
With the half-time whistle blowing on 35 minutes, many where left wondering just how the teams were only separated by a single goal.
In the second half, Cambodia brought on substitute keeper Leng Srey Lin from Battambang, who was immediately put into action when teammates lacked the strength to clear, and the ball bounced up invitingly for Lori Deland, who volleyed an unstoppable shot in for the US team's third.
To their credit, the Cambodian girls never gave up and fought for every ball. Pich Phally from Battambang, who has already shown her potential in Laos May 22, managed to win the ball back on several occasions, and with fast balls to the wing initiated good counter attacks. Mao Sokhoeurn, also from Battambang, often lead the centre of the action for Cambodia, impressing with good ball control and the vision for space. In the 45th minute, a good run should have led to Cambodia's second, but Seng Sami stopped her forward run too early and missed a great ball across from Mao Sokhoeurn.
Two minutes later, the US team added yet another goal to their tally, with experienced central midfielder Lori Deland blasting from 30 metres over the head of Leng Srey Lin, to net her second.
Young players give their best
With nothing to lose, Cambodia coach Sam Schweingruber introduced several new players, among them 11-year-olds Lang Srey Peuw and Roth Kakada, who both impressed with brave attempts and good skill, while clearly lacking the experience of playing on the big field.
The score remained the same until the final whistle, the US girls struggling through the tropical heat. Teams exchanged shirts before joining an after-game party organised by the US team.
US player Whitney Carter, 15, noted the improvement in the Cambodian players since she first visited three years ago. "The girls [have] started to really get good, and it is not easy to go around them." Two premier US girls' coaches Shannon Otteson and Michelle Marklund both saw a great deal of potential within these girls' soccer futures, adding that some of the younger ones could already make it into an American team.
Cambodia captain Chhoeurn Nipha acknowledged that the US girls were better due to their match experience, noting that most Cambodians had only started playing in the last year. "I think the US girls are very good," she said. "They show us that girls can play like boys if they work hard. When I see how they kick the ball and how they play together, I want to train more and become good like them."
Cambodian girls coach Sam Schweingruber, who has helped organise the US girls' visit, was delighted to see the further development of women's football in the Kingdom. "The intensity during training sessions has hopefully established a new standard for the Cambodian girls," he said. "We cannot continue to use the excuse that we are girls and are new to the game."
Schweingruber was extremely proud of his team, especially to see them score their second-ever goal in competition. "By competing against stronger teams and learning from our mistakes, we get better," he continued. "It is important for the girls to regularly have the chance to practice and play friendly games. If the US team returns next year, we hope to be much stronger, keep more possession and create more chances to make the game closer."