The list of U23 football players that will represent Cambodia at the SEA Games in Laos has been revealed, along with cash incentives that will reward medals.
CAMBODIA U23 PLAYERS LIST
Sou Yaty, Samreth Seiha (Ministry of National Defence)
Lay Raksmey, Sok Rithy (Preah Khan Reach)
Pheak Rady (MND)
Tieng Tiny, Touch Pancharong (Phnom Penh Crown)
Chan Dara (Khemara Keila)
Sun Sovannarith (Naga Corp)
Prak Monyoudom, San Narith, Khuonla Boravy (PKR)
Nov Soseila, Um Kompheak, Lorn Sotheara (MND)
Chhun Sothearath (Build Bright United)
Chan Chhaya, Keo Sokngorn (Crown)
Kuoch Sokumpheak (Khemara Keila)
Khim Borey (MND)
FOLLOWING their success in the recent BIDC Cup tournament on home soil, national coach Scott O’Donell announced his final 20-man squad for the Southeast Asian Games on Friday with a fanfare press conference at the Royal Gendarmarie Headquarters in Tuol Kork.
With such a strong showing against Laos and the two V-League club sides, O’Donell’s selection decisions were relatively straightforward. The key choice centred on midfield ace Chhun Sothearath and the knee injury that saw him miss out on the BIDC Cup success. After seeking specialist advice, Sothearath took part in their last 10 days of training in Vietnam and secured his place on the roster ahead of Phuong Narong and Keo Kosal.
O’Donell was happy to include the former Build Bright United star to bolster his midfield options. “We had a thorough check on Sothearath,” the coach said. “He’s got a few issues, but nothing that will cause any more damage. He’s structurally sound and in the last 10 days in Vietnam he trained full on. He played almost a full game the other day at Can Tho, and he’s an important player in the team.”
The five players who have spent the last six weeks in training camp in Vietnam but didn’t make the final cut were goalkeeper Penh Bunchhay and midfielders Phuong Narong, Keo Kosal, Ieng Piseth and To Vann Than.
Sponsorship details of the cash incentives on offer if the Cambodian team can return home with medals were also announced with BBWorld offering US$20,000 for a gold medal, $14,000 for silver, and $10,000 for bronze. Crown Resort & Casino also pledged financial rewards for medals along with the government issued cash prizes in terms of their sub-decree for SEA Games medal winners. Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema stated he will give US$1,000 to the team for each goal they score at the tournament, along with Metfone, which will grant $300 for each score.
In an exclusive interview with the Post after the press conference, Scott O’Donell put the lofty thoughts of SEA Games success into perspective. “I expect my players to go out and give 100 percent, and try their very best,” he remarked. “I think people have to be realistic and honest with themselves that it was great to win the BIDC Cup, the players did very well and it was great for their confidence.
“But there’s a big difference in the BIDC Cup [opponents] and the Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia U23 teams. I think people have to be aware of that. It was great to see the support at the Olympic Stadium in the final of the BIDC Cup … but we have got to be realistic. There’s a big difference playing in a friendly tournament at home to playing in the SEA Games.”
O’Donell’s approach to the uphill task they face in Group A of the SEA Games competition will remain unchanged. “We’ll be approaching the games in the same way as we approached the BIDC Cup games and in training,” he asserted. “How we played in the BIDC Cup is how we’re going to try and play, hopefully better. In terms of our tactical approach and how we set ourselves up, formations and style, it will be exactly the same.
“We don’t intend to get 10 players defending the penalty area – we’re going out there to try and play good football. When we get the ball I want us to play, I want to enjoy watching my team, I want the players to enjoy playing and that’s what we are going to try and do.”
Five members of the current squad also appeared in Cambodia’s last SEA Games expedition to Khorat in Thailand in 2007 – namely Samreth Seiha, Tieng Tiny, Sun Sovannarith, Kuoch Sokumpheak and Khim Borey – and the coach noted how the experience of these relatively senior players is a “big help” to the squad that boasts many youngsters.
In comparing the current team to the 2007 side, O’Donell said: “I would say in what we’ve been doing for the last six weeks, I think they have grasped how I want them to play a lot better, and they have a good understanding of what I want and expect from them. The players have worked hard over the past six weeks and we’re going to do the very best that we can – I can’t ask anymore than that.”
O’Donell was pragmatic about the strength of the opposition his team will face. “We’ve got to play them, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first game or whenever. The advantage we have, if you can call it that, is that we don’t play in the first round of games, so we get to watch all four teams.
“I’ve got some videos, a few match reports, scouting reports, and we’ve got a fair idea of what we’re up against. We know that Thailand and Vietnam, if you ask the majority of the coaches at the SEA Games, are the two favourites to go through.
“Malaysia have got some good boys, they’ve been together for a long time, playing the U21 team in the Malaysian Premier League. They’ve got some good results over the past year, playing a lot of friendly games, a lot of exposure and there are high expectations. “The higher the expectation for the opposition, the better it is for us. I know nothing about East Timor at all apart from they’ve done well at U19 level.”
O’Donell has given the captain’s armband to Naga Corp full-back, Sun Sovannarith. “He’s been in the national team for five years now,” stated the coach. “He’s an experienced player, a very good player. Sets a good example to the younger boys, and he’s one of the players who should be playing overseas somewhere because he’s got a lot of ability. He’s a good boy and I trust him. He has the respect of the coaching staff and the players, which is important.”
O’Donell rarely singles out individuals, but he had this to say about effervescent wingman Nov Soseila, who has quickly made himself popular amongst Cambodian football fans with his spirited displays. “Sometimes he’s my darling, and sometimes he’s not,” revealed th coach. “When he does what he’s told, he’s a very good player, a very dangerous player as we saw in the BIDC Cup. He likes to take on players, and has got that little bit of mongrel in him which I like. He’s got loads of ability, but he’s got to be switched on and concentrating all the time and use his brain. He’s a good outlet for us.”
The Cambodian U23 team arrived in Vientiane on Sunday. Their two-day overland journey by bus wasn’t without its hiccups, but they made it safely to the SEA Games athletes’ village and will begin training today, before they open their account by meeting eight times gold medallists Thailand Friday at the Chao Anu-vong Stadium in central Vientiane (kickoff time 3pm).