Peng Bunchhay (Phnom Penh Crown); Sou Yaty, Thong Oudom, Lorn Sotheara, Phuong Soksana (Ministry of Defence); Chhun Veasna (Kong Reach Sey); Tum Saray, Prak Monyoudom, Soun Makara (Preah Khan Reach); Nhem Sovannara (BBU); Soeng Vanthan, Keo Sokngorn, Touch Pacharong, Hong Ratana (Phnom Penh Crown); Khek Khemrin, Um Kompheak (Ministry of Defence); Seng Kosen (Spark); Sok Chanrasmey, Sok Vannak (Preah Khan Reach); Ek Vannak (BBU)
CAMBODIA'S young hopefuls took the bus to Ho Chi Minh City this morning, in preparation for the toughest challenge of their budding careers. They are to take part in the ASEAN Football Federation Under-19 Youth Championships in Vietnam and are rubbing shoulders with the young stars of Australia, Thailand and Singapore in their group.
It's a tall order for the youngsters from Cambodia, but coach Prak Sovannara is optimistic. "I have a good squad, all of the players bar one are with [Cambodian Premier League] teams and play regularly as well as train full time," said the former Cambodian national coach, who is technical adviser to CPL leaders Preah Khan Reach. "I know it's a tall order, but at youth level I believe we can give a good account of ourselves. I've selected 20 players, and we are going to Vietnam a little early so we can get together, train together and play a couple of practise games before it starts for real."
With CPL teams Phnom Penh Crown, Ministry of National Defence and Preah Khan Reach providing the bulk of the squad for the tournament, which starts August 4 and involves three games in five days, domestic league matches involving those three teams will be rescheduled, according to FFC deputy secretary May Tola.
Cambodia will face Thailand in their opening game August 4, and then meet Singapore two days later before playing Australia August 8. If they progress, the semifinals are on August 10 and the final August 12.
Despite the coach's optimistic view, progress from the group stage would be a major success for the Cambodian youths who number Phnom Penh Crown's wunderkind Keo Sokngorn amongst their ranks, along with two of the CPL's best goalkeepers this season, Peng Bunchhay and Sou Yaty.
All photos by Nick Sells (www.nicksellsphotography.com)