Cambodia came agonisingly close to a first ever Southeast Asian (Sea) Games football medal on Tuesday when their 10th penalty in their playoff for bronze with Myanmar at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila hit the post.
With the scores 2-2 tied after 90 minutes, the match went to a dreaded penalty shootout.
And with the scores level at 4-4, it was fan favourite Keo Sokpheng – who had earlier kept Cambodia in the match with a superb free-kick – who suffered heartbreak when he saw his sharply struck spot-kick come off the woodwork.
The Warriors showed great mental strength throughout the match after getting off to a cracking start before going 2-1 down, with Sokpheng’s heroic curling free-kick on 71 minutes to level the match typifying their spirit.
Cambodia struck first with one of the quickest goals in Sea Games history after 18 seconds through Sieng Chanthea, who linked up with Sokphea on the left and burst into the area before firing past Myanmar keeper Sann Sat Naing from a tight angle.
Myanmar responded quickly, levelling in the ninth minute with forward Aung Kaung Mann heading home from a cross.
Cambodia had a defensive lapse in the 14th minute that allowed Myanmar to get the ball in the net, but Mann was waved offside.
Myanmar pressured again and in the 33rd minute they were awarded a penalty from a mistimed sliding tackle in the box, which midfielder Myat Kaung Khant converted.
Near the end of the half, Cambodia had a golden opportunity to score from a pass from the left, but Sophanat Sin sailed his shot over the bar.
The second half began with both teams on the attack, though neither team could find a breakthrough.
But in the 71st minute Cambodia were awarded a free-kick, which Sokpheng curled in off the bar to keep Cambodian hopes alive before they suffered shootout agony.
Cambodia proved to be the surprise of the Philippines 2019 Sea Games football competition and return home with pride after their stirring run to the medal stage for the first time.
Meanwhile, Vietnam cruised their way to the title on Tuesday night with a routine 3-0 win in the final over Indonesia in Manila.
The Golden Dragons, who went into the gold medal match as firm favourites, were rarely tested at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.
Star man Doan Van Hau, who plays in the Dutch top league, opened the scoring after 39 minutes, latching on to a Do Hung Dung free-kick from the edge of the box for a close-range header.
Vietnam made it 2-0 in the 59th minute after a scuffed Indonesia clearance fell to Do Hung Dung, who buried his shot from the edge of the box.
Doan Van Hau scored his second and his team’s third when Indonesia goalkeeper Winata Nadeo flapped at a wide free-kick from Nguyen Hoang Duc straight into the path of the SC Heerenveen defender who slotted home from near the left hand post on 70 minutes.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP