Football team reflects on Suzuki Cup group-stage exit
THE Cambodian national football team returned home Wednesday evening after a disappointing campaign in the AFF Suzuki Cup finals.
The side lost all three of their group matches, played in Indonesia, including a 0-5 drubbing by defending champions Singapore.
Team spirits remain high, however, with the Royals' players and coaches taking many positives from their experiences in the Asean Football Federation competition.
Cambodia head coach Prak Sovannara told the Post by phone Thursday that the players showed good determination and had struggled hard to compete in their games, improving on previous performances at a friendly tournament in Indonesia three months ago.
"Before, we lost to the Burmese team 7-1, but this time we only lost 3-2," he said.
"Our defence is getting stronger, but we are still not flexible enough. In the future, we will have to work on adapting to changes in play.
"Singapore altered their technique against us, playing the long ball and hitting short passes, so they beat us easily."
The joy of scoring
Striker Kouch Sokumpheak was delighted to record his second-ever goal for his country in Tuesday's match against Myanmar, after nearly four years of playing for the national team.
"I was trying very hard to get a goal," said the 22-year-old, adding that it took him two attempts to score. His only other goal came at last year's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Thailand.
Kouch Sokumpheak said the conditions for the tournament were good, with similar playing surfaces to that of Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium and fair, consistent refereeing for all teams.
"There were many spectators clapping and cheering for Cambodia, especially for our game against Singapore," he said. "My favourite match was against Indonesia because they had a lot of local support, and that gave me a strong desire to compete."
The striker predicted Singapore would win the tournament because of their many foreign-born players, whose size advantage can prove decisive.
"We found it hard to play against them because they were big and strong and had good technique," Kouch Sokumpheak said of the naturalised players.
"I hope one day Cambodia will win the AFF Cup, but that will only happen if we get more support and motivation, and have good leadership," he added.
The national team will now divert their attention to the 2009 SEA Games, being held in Vientiane, Laos, next December.
Ouk Sethycheat, secretary general of the Football Federation of Cambodia, said: "We will try our best to upgrade our football fields. We will do an evaluation of the tournament in Indonesia to decide what we need to upgrade for the next tournament."