As the semifinal drama unfolds today at Olympic Stadium in the 10th edition of the prestigious Hun Sen Cup, the talk of the town is the gatecrashing by relative newcomers CMAC United, who find themselves in unchartered territory following their sensational defeat last week of 2013 champs and four-time runners-up NagaWorld.
Three of the four semifinalists are previous winners, with Svay Rieng Preah Khan Reach holding the distinction of winning the Cup a record three times. Phnom Penh Crown, who face Svay Rieng in the 3:30pm kick-off, last won the event in 2009, having grabbed the honours under a different name the previous year for the first time.
Ministry of National Defence took the 2010 edition and played second fiddle to Svay Rieng three years later.
The sporting face of one of Cambodia’s leading demining organisations was unveiled in 2007, but it wasn’t until seven years later that CMAC United got into the top tier of domestic football.
The side finished ninth in the last league season and are currently eighth this term, but none of that has any bearing on their unexpected but deserving rise to the level of competing for a place in Saturday’s final.
It was the heroics of Hong Makara and his late strike against Naga that led them on this glorious path. Now there is anticipation in the CMAC camp of another bold showing against the Army outfit in their twilight clash at 6pm.
The Armymen have notched up some impressive scorelines during the season so far but their league loss to NagaWorld last Sunday has left them shaken. The 2010 winners, who finished second in the competition three years later, are keen on regaining this much coveted piece of silverware.
Both Crown and Svay Rieng take the pitch on the back of league wins last week. While Crown had it easy against the out-of-form National Police, the visitors from Svay Rieng took time to shake off a tenacious Cambodian Tiger FC in a game that produced seven goals.
Svay Rieng can look back with some pride in their gutsy win over Boeung Ket Angkor in the quarterfinals. As holders of the cup, nothing would please Svay Rieng more than extending their lease on it for another year
HUN SEN CUP SEMIFINALS
Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng v Phnom Penh Crown, Olympic Stadium, 3.30pm
Ministry of National Defence v CMAC United, Olympic Stadium, 6pm