The battle for the prestigious Hun Sen Cup takes the spotlight in domestic football after the climax to the league championship, with Ministry of National Defence and National Police locked in the final showdown at the Olympic Stadium, which is to kick off at 6:30pm on Saturday.
Structured in a multi-phase format and celebrating its 12th edition, the Hun Sen Cup is the only open football tournament in the Kingdom, opening up opportunities for teams from provinces to compete with some of the best privately owned and established clubs in Cambodia.
After a qualification and elimination group stage process that lasted for several months, the finalists this year fought their way through to the final, as some of the more fancied teams like NagaWorld, Boeung Ket, and multiple winners and reigning champs Svay Rieng all hitting the buffers in the knockout stages.
On the way to the final, the Army edged past Naga, while Police arrested the progress of Siem Reap-based Angkor Tiger.
Going into the final, the Army outfit enjoys a distinct advantage, having beaten their adversaries twice during the just concluded Metfone C-League season. Besides, the gulf between the two sides in the final standings was so wide that it is hard to see Police matching Army’s all round strength.
With 39 points, Army finished fourth in the league, a drop from their runners-up berth last year, yet they were no less than 14 points better off in the table compared to Police, who lost half of the games in the 22 campaign to finish ninth out of 12 teams.
Winners in 2010 and 2016 and runners-up once in 2013, Army have perhaps the best composition of local players compared to any leading side, an in this competition as it is restricted to Cambodian players only.
If history were to stand by Police, the side can look back to 2014 for drawing inspiration. In what was a year of unusual results, and against all expectations, two long-shots in Police and Build Bright United reached the final, leaving some heavyweights red-faced.
Police went on to claim their first and until now only major trophy since moving up to the Premier League in 2000 as winners of League 1.
If track record is any indication, it looks as if the cup is Army’s to lose.