Phnom Penh Crown Academy’s U16 boys team will fly out to Guangzhou in southern China on Friday ahead of their opening game of the 2014 Asia U16 Champions Trophy against Guangdong FA on Saturday.
The match, slated for a 4pm (3pm Cambodian time) kickoff, is being played at the 58,000-capacity Tianhe Stadium, the home ground of Chinese Super League champions Guangzhou Evergrande.
Crown Academy coach Bouy Dary has named an 18-strong squad for their first Group B fixture of the competition, which has been rebranded from the FAM-Frenz U15 ASEAN Champions Trophy during its inaugural edition last year due to the inclusion of sides from China and India.
Group A features AIFF Academy (India), Frenz Harimau Muda (Malaysia), Frenz United Indonesia, PVF FA (Vietnam), East Timor U16 national team and Home United SC (Singapore)
Group B includes reigning champions Chonburi FC (Thailand), Phnom Penh Crown, Frenz United Malaysia, Lao Toyota FC, Guangdong FA and Mandalay Academy FC (Myanmar).
Bouy Dary seems confident of better results this year after finishing the previous tournament at the bottom of the Group A table with two draws and eight losses.
“We have played numerous friendly matches against local and foreign teams and we’ve seen a marked improvement in our performance since last year,” he told the Post.
“For example, we were previously beaten 8-3 by a Vietnam squad, then moved to a 3-1 loss, then a 3-0 win, a 1-0 win, and a 2-1 win.
“Moreover, we have played against both our peers and elder sides. Our U16s beat CMAC, whose players are aged between 16 and 21.
“We’ve lots of good players now, especially our attacking midfielder Im Sodavid and striker Chhut Soung,” he added.
The coach seemed content with moving on from their baptism of fire in 2013.
“What’s done is done,” he said. “We can learn from the past, but I’d like to note that our rivals’ players are generally bigger and more experienced on the international stage than our own players. So our main focus is to simply compete with them on a tactical level.
“I do want to break our duck [in taking a first victory in the competition], and brush off those embarrassing memories from last year. [Any victory] will be for our nation.”
The coach added that they had been studying games of their rivals from Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar on YouTube, but had not found any footage of their Chinese opponents.
This weekend will also see a nine-strong squad of the Crown Academy U14s team heading off to Singapore to defend their title in the SSC Soccer Sixes youth tournament. Matches will be held on the hallowed Padang turf in the Downtown Core of the Lion City on Saturday and Sunday.