A 73rd-minute strike from Khim Borey gave Cambodia a 2-1 win over
Brunei Saturday and ensured the nation will be represented in
December's Suzuki Cup
Tieng Tiny (left) and Chan Rithy (second left) join their Cambodia teammates in thanking supporters following their 2-1 triumph over Brunei at Olympic Stadium on Saturday.
SUZUKI CUP QUALIFYING
Top two teams advance to December’s final
* Cambodia and Philippines both finished on 7pts but
Cambodia advances because they scored more goals
CAMBODIA secured a place in Southeast Asia's football championship Saturday with a 2-1 victory over Brunei in a do-or-die match that sees the national team through to Group A of the December competition.
Having risen to the occasion on the final day of the qualifying tournament, Cambodia's footballers left Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium knowing that a far greater challenge awaits them in Jakarta in six weeks' time.
They have been placed in Group A of the Asean Football Federation's (AFF) Suzuki Cup finals, alongside defending champions Singapore, Myanmar and group stage co-hosts Indonesia.
Top qualifiers Laos will join Group B of the region's premier football event, alongside Malaysia, Vietnam and the last edition's runners-up Thailand, who will host their pool's matches.
"I am very proud of my team today because they kept their heads and used the right strategy to defeat their rivals very well,'' head coach Prak Sovvanara said after his side vanquished Brunei.
He singled out Khim Borey for special praise, calling him the "match killer".
"I didn't think he could play so professionally like he has this year because he was in very poor form last year," Prak Sovvanara said.
Khim Borey, summing up what was on many players' minds, responded: "I am very happy to come out of this tournament a winner and I profoundly thank my coach and teammates, who have tried their best for the pride of our country."
Refining the defence
The Football Federation of Cambodia (FFC) had been searching for a South Korean coach to take up the reins left open when Yoo Kee-heung, another South Korean, left the post in July, though it appears likely Prak Sovvanara will see the team through the Suzuki Cup.
"We have a month to work with and we hope we will come up with some refinements," the manager told the AFF website, singling out defence as the team's greatest weakness.
"Obviously we could have defended better although, in hindsight, I believe our players are now the best set we have at the moment."
Cambodia gave up eight goals while scoring nine during their four matches - a 3-2 defeat of Laos, 2-2 draw with East Timor, 2-3 loss to the Philippines and a 2-1 win over Brunei. By contrast, Laos scored nine goals and conceded seven; the Philippines netted six times and were scored against five; and East Timor scored four and conceded nine.
Still, it was Cambodia's strike record that allowed them to advance ahead of the Philippines and kept 15,000-strong crowds at Olympic Stadium on the edge of their seats.
Those seats could do with some improvements, however. The AFF match reporter, while praising the FFC's hosting of the tournament, noted that the afternoon matches would have been a lot more comfortable for all had they been played at night under floodlights.