Nothing succeeds like success, and Boeung Ket Rubber Field will be banking on their abundant self-belief to pass a stern test of strength and character that Turkmenistan’s champs Balkan FC are likely to bring to their AFC President’s Cup Group C tie at Olympic Stadium today.
With both sides having won their opening matches on Monday, this crucial clash, which virtually determines the group rankings, could turn into a sharp, no-holds-barred contest.
Boeung Ket coach Prak Vuthy is well aware of the hard work that lies ahead once the game kicks off at 4pm after Monday’s losers Sri Lanka Army Sports Club and Palestine side Hilal Al-Quds bear the brunt of the afternoon heat when they meet at 1pm.
The coach concedes that Balkan’s overall physical strength and their ability to put this into some tough play could prove troublesome for his team, but he is not duly worried.
“We have some tough players too, and I can count on a lot of positives that came out of our win against the Sri Lankan Army on Monday to work well again for us,” Prak Vuthy told the Post after Boeung Ket’s dominant 6-0 victory.
The toast went out during Boeung Ket’s victory celebrations to 19-year-old Chan Vathanaka, whose four-goal haul has raised his own profile as a prolific scorer.
Nimble footed as he is, Vathanaka, in his last teen year, has shown remarkable presence of mind when it comes to gilt-edged opportunities. On Monday he seemed to be everywhere, a sign that he could be relied upon to switch positions and gears any time.
Interestingly, the most exciting playmaker for Boeung Ket has been Momoh Deguile, whose ball control and constant spread of effective passes has kept his colleagues in front busy while making life miserable for opposing defenders.
The Nigerian midfielder is no lightweight when it comes to boot power. On Monday he let loose one of his thundering volleys, which missed the bar by a few inches – but if it had gone in would most certainly have pierced a hole in the net. Momoh Deguile’s midpark sparkle is vital in lighting up the rest of the attacking line.
Boeung Ket will be using utility player Keo Sokngorn sparingly. He sprang up from the bench to score within minutes of stepping onto the pitch against the Sri Lankans.
Keo Sokpheng excelled in sending some neat crosses and delivering promising flagkicks and he could also be a vital attacking link.
Another Nigerian import, Chukwuma Ohuruogu, has been rock solid in the backline, unhurriedly brilliant at times, while Peng Bunchhay under the Boeung Ket bar has been alert, able and confident.
The most worrying aspect for the Kampong Cham club could well be the ability of the Balkan forwards to bulldoze their way into the box, and the Turkmenistan champions are also known for successfully firing in long-range missiles and being very effective in set piece situations.
What is bothering the Balkan camp is the heat and humidity that the players are not so used to. There were water breaks every 20 minutes during their 3-2 win over Hilal Al-Quds, something unusual but warranted under the circumstances, and the Balkan players dealt with the weather better than their rivals from Palestine.
The West Bank champions had reasons to be terribly disappointed on Monday after losing a close call against Balkan. They take to the pitch against Sri Lanka Army Sports Club in the hope they could still make the grade if they manage to win today and repeat the feat against Boeung Ket in their last fixture on Friday. Hope is not yet lost for the Jerusalem-based team.
Spirits were clearly down in the Sri Lankan camp after Monday's defeat, and the unsavoury handball by Sajith Chameera that led to the side’s self-destruction was the talking point. Like Al-Quds, the Sri Lankans are not giving up either and they are determined to put up a stout fight.