Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book review - Match Fixer

Yes I know its a football-related post but it's also a book-related post, so I've posted it here too. If you have any interest in Asian football at all, you must get a copy of Neil Humphreys' debut novel, Match Fixer. Even if you can't stand football - yes there are some people like that out there - but fancy a really good read immersed in the exotic Far East then Match Fixer will provide that too. Just treat the football as incidental. Humphreys has lived in Singapore, has worked in sports journalism and has put the two together to produce a riveting read, which will be on sale at Monument Books on Norodom Boulevard next week.
I thought that the best person to review Match Fixer would be someone who has played football in Australia and Singapore (as the lead character in the book did), who's worked in the media and who knows Asian football inside out. Step forward Scott O'Donell, the national football team coach of Cambodia, who kindly penned the following review after reading through Humphreys' new novel:

Match Fixer by Neil Humphreys

Neil Humphreys has taken me back in time with his latest offering, Match Fixer.

Having played and coached in Singapore, Match Fixer was something that I could obviously relate to. Humphreys' intimate knowledge of Singapore and in particular the S-League, is an entertaining and somewhat disconcerting view of life as a professional footballer through the eyes of failed West Ham Reserve team player Chris Osborne.

Having failed to make the grade at West Ham, Osborne ended up in Singapore via Australia to ply his trade in one of South East Asia’s newest football leagues. While enjoying success and being the new superstar of the S-League, Osborne gets entwined in a complex web of drugs, karaoke lounges and bookies.

It was his presence at a party of a well known foreign publisher that he found himself caught in a situation that proved very difficult to get out of. As you will discover, his honesty and unwillingness to co-operate with the bookies very nearly cost him his career.

The characters in Match Fixer are people all of us who have been involved in football anywhere in the world can relate to: Danny Spearman, the failed ex-pro from UK, Billy Addis, the expat journalist and Yati, the beautiful Sarong Party Girl. All of whom contribute to this fascinating tale of football and Singapore’s underworld.

While this piece of fiction is a must read for anyone looking for an entertaining and fascinating novel, anyone who has been involved in football in South East Asia whether as a spectator, a player or a coach will be able to relate to it.

Scott O'Donell

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Positive in defeat

Cambodia's starting XI: (back row, LtoR): Tiny, Rady, Yaty, Sokngorn, Sovannrithy, Thavrak, (front row): Narith, Sokumpheak, Soseila, Borey, Chhaya.
South Korea have a worthy reputation when it comes to football and World Cup qualification and as we saw in yesterday's friendly match at Olympic Stadium between the Cambodian national team and Korean collegiate side Ulsan University, their strength in depth is pretty impressive. The team that faced Cambodia yesterday don't even play in the top two professional leagues in South Korea and yet they gave an assured performance to beat Cambodia's best 1-0. Okay, a draw would've been a fair result, both sides created a few chances and the only goal came from a wicked deflection, but it's a reminder that Cambodia has some way to go before they can match the best that Asia can offer. For national coach Scott O'Donell, it's all part of the learning process. "I like to win, I wasn't happy that we lost but there were some positive performances. We've still got a lot of work to do in our attacking third - selecting the right options and having the confidence to shoot - but I was happy with the 2nd half performance, the effort was outstanding and the attitude was good. We used the man advantage until the final third, but they defended well, they were well organized like most Korean teams are. I would've liked a result but you never get what you deserve in football. It was a great experience for the players to be up against bigger, stronger boys. Hopefully we'll learn from that."
It could've been a very different story if Kuoch Sokumpheak hadn't rolled his shot wide of the post from 12 yards in the 2nd minute. Five minutes later, the impressive Lee Dong Kun struck a drive which took a looping deflection off the shoulder of Tieng Tiny, leaving Sou Yaty in the Cambodian goal completely flat-footed for the opening goal. The college outfit looked dangerous going forward with incisive passing and Kun struck the foot of the post on 15 minutes. Yaty came out well to block a shot from the Ulsan skipper Lee Sang Gi on 26 minutes after Kun had carved open the opportunity as Cambodia found it hard to get into the game. They did up their effort just before half-time but Keo Sokngorn and Sokumpheak couldn't find a way past Yang Jin Ung in the Ulsan goal.
A more determined Cambodia came out for the second half and Chan Rithy struck the crossbar with a thumping drive within a minute of the restart. Their bright start received a boost when Yoo Joo Hun was dismissed for a 2nd bookable offense even though the referee failed to notice he'd booked the same player twice, until his linesman pointed it out to him. Very embarrassing for the man in the middle, Sreng Hao Dy. Cambodia pressed with Khim Borey shooting just over and Sokumpheak sending a header skidding wide when he found himself unmarked ten yards out. The game got a bit juicy as both teams gave no quarter and the tackles came flying in thick and fast. On 82 minutes Cambodia's best chance went begging. Sokumpheak fed Sokngorn who drove the ball goalwards where keeper Ung got a touch, the ball struck Tieng Tiny a yard out and agonisingly looped over the bar. Despite their pressing, Cambodia couldn't find an equalizer and the collegiate team recorded their hard-earned success. The match attendance was 5,000.
Although this one-off game didn't bring Cambodia the win they'd hoped for, it was a rare opportunity for the team to get together, train together, and play together and with World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualification on the horizon in October, this is exactly the type of international experience that Scott O'Donell wants his team to have on a much more regular basis. The forthcoming Hun Sen Cup matches and the start of the CPL season will be upon us in no time, so it's vital that the powers that be produce a constructive program of international matches with October at the forefront of their thinking, and quickly.
The Cambodian line-up: Yaty, Rady, Sovannrithy (Chanbunrith 81), Tiny, Thavrak, Narith (Chanthan 76), Borey (Sothearith 87), Sokngorn, Soseila (Rithy 6, (Kumpheak 75)), Chhaya, Sokumpheak (capt).
Kuoch Sokumpheak (10) leads out the Cambodia national team in red
Before the kick-off. LtoR: Nov Soseila, Sou Yaty and Kuoch Sokumpheak
LtoR: San Narith, Keo Sokngorn, Khim Borey and Chan Chhaya
LtoR: Om Thavrak, Sun Sovannrithy, Tieng Tiny, Pheak Rady
Cambodia capt Kuoch Sokumpheak with Ulsan's Lee Sang Gi and the match officials
Cambodia's coach Scott O'Donell (right) and his assistant Bouy Dary face the tv cameras after the match

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

O'Donell's view

Scott O'Donell, Cambodia's national football coach
I talked to Cambodia's national football coach Scott O'Donell at lunchtime today to get his thoughts on Saturday's international friendly encounter between his Cambodian national squad and a visiting unknown quantity, in the form of South Korean collegiate team Ulsan University. The game will be played at the Olympic Stadium from 3pm, is being televised live and has been arranged through the national team's links with Korean-owned telecommunications partner, KTC. For the life of me I can't find out anything at all about Ulsan University, though the industrial city of Ulsan has two other professional clubs that play in the K-League and National Leagues, whilst University football appears to be a feeder into these competitions. Scott admitted he knew as little as me. "I know nothing at all about the opposition. They arrived Wednesday, trained that afternoon, have a squad of 22 players and faced Preah Khan Reach on Thursday [whom they beat 3-1]. But it's a good opportunity to get the national team together and will be a good experience to play against a South Korean team, as they are normally well organized and bigger players than our own. I will play the same formation, 4-4-2, as I have before."

In selecting his squad for this one-off international friendly, Scott has kept faith with the core of the Under-23 team that performed in the recent SEA Games and bolstered it with some familiar and experienced faces. Returning to the international fold are the Naga Corp trio of Om Thavrak, Kim Bunchanrith and Pok Chanthan, as well as Phnom Penh Crown's tricky left winger Chan Rithy. The 20-man squad have been training at the national football center just outside the capital for the past four days and will train on the Olympic pitch on Friday. "I wanted to retain the core of the Under-23 team from the SEA Games as in my opinion they performed well for me over the last 3-4 months, both in training and in the games. I've added a few senior players who've played with me before and who are players I believe can add valuable experience, on and off the field. However, this is by no means the final squad for the national team." 2010 will be a key year for Cambodian football in the international calendar. "The focus this year will be on the full national team with World Cup and Suzuki Cup qualifiers in October, so I've put a proposal to the Federation to get the players together more regularly for training and more regular international matches as well." Whether his blueprint for the national team comes to fruition remains to be seen, but whatever happens, Scott's preparation for this friendly match won't change from the norm. "I will approach this game as I do every other game. I'm treating the training sessions in exactly the same way. There's no such thing as friendly games. We go out there to win, win everything, try to be competitive and I want the players to go out there and perform. This is a good chance for them to show the Cambodian public what they are capable of. We want to do well and we want to win the game."

All of the Cambodian players have been involved in their club sides' Hun Sen Cup qualifying matches in recent weeks, with Kuoch Sokumpheak on fire for his team, Khemara Keila. Sokumpheak netted 18 goals in their three matches recently, including a 10-goal haul against Arizon, in a match which also saw his sent off. He was the golden boot winner in last season's cup competition. Scott views the Hun Sen Cup as a real positive for his future plans. "My coaching staff will be at all the future Hun Sen Cup games to identify new talent. That's one of the beauties of the competition. There are some teams we've never seen before and we hope there are some good, young, raw players, and if they show the right ability, we can bring them into the national set-up for training. I've already seen some games in the provinces, at Svay Rieng and Kep. Whilst I'm very supportive of having foreign players in the CPL, I think it's a good idea for the Hun Sen Cup to give locals only a chance against provincial teams and let the teams show what they're capable of, without the foreign players involved."

This is the national team's first game of a very important year. October is the pinnacle of the year with a raft of important qualifying games yet there is no schedule or build-up of international friendlies and as yet, we are still in the dark regarding the fixtures for the Cambodian Premier League season and the Super 4 competition, and how that schedule will impact on the national team. Added to that, Scott's one-year contract will expire in May and in my opinion to ensure continuity it would be in everyone's best interests to secure his future for at least the rest of the year. I await developments with a tinge of apprehension.

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20-man squad named

The Cambodian national team face touring side Ulsan University from South Korea is a one-off friendly match at Olympic Stadium this coming Saturday, kick-off at 3pm. Ulsan are playing Preah Khan Reach this afternoon and both matches are being televised on local channel TVK. This is a good opportunity for the national team to re-assemble after their SEA Games exploits and coach Scott O'Donell has included a few experienced faces in his 20-man squad, to supplement the core of the U23 team that lined up in Laos. The squad have been training at the national football center just outside the capital for the last four days in preparation for the match. Incoming faces include left-winger Chan Rithy of PPCrown and the Naga trio of Om Thavrak, Kim Chanbunrith and Pok Chanthan. Just a quick word on one player who is already in red-hot form during the qualifying matches of the Hun Sen Cup - Kuoch Sokumpheak netted 18 goals in three games, including 10 in a match against Arizon. Here's the 20-man squad:
Sou Yaty, Samreth Seiha (Ministry of National Defence)
Lay Raksmey, Sok Rithy (Preah Khan Reach)
Pheak Rady (MND)
Tieng Tiny (Phnom Penh Crown)
Om Thavrak, Kim Chanbunrith, Sun Sovannarith (Naga Corp)
Prak Mony Udom, San Narith
Nov Sokseila, Oum Kumpheak (MND)
Chhun Sothearath (Build Bright United)
Pok Chanthan (Naga Corp)
Chan Chhaya, Keo Sokngorn, Chan Rithy (PP Crown)
Kuoch Sokumpheak
(Khemara Keila)
Khim Borey (MND)

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Monday, December 21, 2009

A brighter future

This article on football in Cambodia appeared on the website recently, putting a positive spin on where we are today.

Cambodia build for a bright future
Although ranked at the lower echelons of the Asian football pecking order, Cambodia are showing positive indicators for the future of the world game in the South-East Asian nation. A fast-growing national league, historic progress in the women’s game and a raw love for the game make for a promising outlook in the nation wedged between Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Next year is set to be critically important for their national team, who face the dual challenge of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers and Suzuki Cup preliminaries during the latter stages of 2010. Under respected Australian coach Scott O’Donell, the Cambodians are aiming to repeat the success of two years ago, when they qualified for the Suzuki Cup, the South East Asian regional championship.

Young brigade
Earlier this week Cambodia completed their South-East Asian games commitments with O’Donell using the U-23 tournament as the first building block in the next stage of the senior national team’s development. Now in his second spell as national team coach, the 42-year-old - who is the first Australian to coach a foreign national side - is very much focussed on youth. O’Donell intends to fast-track the majority of the U-23 national team to senior level. “My plan is to keep the U-23s together as the national team. Although there will be a few older players, my general idea is to keep the younger boys together and make them the future of the national team,” he told

A lack of international experience is what could prove the undoing of the Cambodians if the experiences of the last fortnight in Laos are any gauge. “Against Thailand we were losing 1-0, having created some great chances, but then conceded two goals in two minutes of injury time, so for that to happen against the favourites meant were couldn’t get back into the game,” said O’Donell, a former Director of Coach Education at the Asian Football Confederation. “It was a similar story against Malaysia. Unless the players get used to playing against good teams and stay focused and concentrated for 90 minutes, then we will get punished. So that is the tough lesson that came out of the tournament for the players. “We have to try and play to our strengths,” O’Donell continued. “We are not big and we need to play in a similar way to the Thais or the Vietnamese, with quick movement of the ball and movement off the ball. I’m trying to implement a style in which the players can use their strengths.

Football passion
The Cambodian Premier League, which features nine clubs from the capital Phnom Penh and one from the Takeo province, has recently received a significant injection with a recent sponsorship, and the league has also boosted in recent times through the addition of a number of international players. “The league is becoming more competitive compared to when I first arrived, when it was very lop-sided," said O'Donell. "This year the league is a lot more competitive, with some foreign players coming in as well.”

Earlier this year, a Cambodian girls U-16 national team made the 1,200-kilometre journey by road to play against Laos and in doing so created a small slice of history as the first female team to represent this Asian nation. The popularity of the game for both genders remains undiminished despite the relative lack of international exposure, and numbers continues to boom at a significant rate. “If you go to the national stadium on any afternoon, there are hundreds and hundreds of children playing football, bare-footed, across all age groups,” says O’Donell. “Football is so popular. We had over 35,000 to see the (U-23) national team play (in a tournament final) in November, and I have never seen that in Cambodia before. If Cambodia can achieve some relative success on the regional stage, then there will be even further growth.”

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Looking forwards

2010 will be an important year for the Cambodia national football team after 2009 ended with their SEA Games elimination in Laos. In fact, Laos will host the next serious competitive international tournament that Cambodia will take part in, the AFF Suzuki Cup qualifying rounds in October 2010. The five lowest Southeast Asian ranked teams - Laos, Cambodia, Philippines, Brunei and Timor-Leste - will all compete in a round-robin tournament format and the two leading teams will progress to the finals of the 2010 Suzuki Cup. The qualifying games in Laos will be held from 14-24 October. I expect Vientiane will be the venue. The last time Cambodia were in the qualifying tournament was in 2008, held in Phnom Penh, from which they emerged in second place behind Laos and qualified for the finals, though came back home empty handed with no points. That will be their objective again, to qualify for the finals, where they would hope to do better than their results against Singapore (5-0), Indonesia (4-0) and Myanmar (3-2) in December 2008. The finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup will be held jointly by Vietnam - the 2008 winners - and Indonesia. Six teams - Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Myanmar - are already guaranteed a spot in the finals and will be joined by the two qualifiers from the event in Laos. The finals will take place in the first week of December 2010.
Another major international fixture for Cambodia in 2010 will be the two qualifying matches, home and away, for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The draw for which fellow Asian country Cambodia will face has not yet been made but the matches will take place on 8 and 12 October 2010, just before the Suzuki Cup tournament in Laos. Camboodia failed at the first hurdle in the opening qualifying round for this year's World Cup, when they lost 5-1 on aggregate to Turkmenistan (the games were played in Oct 2007).
The Cambodian football federation will need to decide on who will lead Cambodia into the above matches. Aussie coach Scott O'Donell took on the national team job, for a 2nd time, in June of this year, with a 1-year contract, that will expire in the middle of 2010. Continuity is absolutely vital if Cambodia are to keep progressing and O'Donell's knowledge of football in the region and his no-nonsense approach have already ensured that Cambodia are heading in the right direction. The U23 squad that gained invaluable experience in Laos recently will form the backbone of the national team next year and it would be foolish to change direction at the helm in my view. O'Donell is the man for the tasks that lie ahead.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

On the training pitch

Malaysian tv interview Scott O'Donell after this afternoon's training session
Rather than undertake a fruitless search for the television headquarters, I got a tuk-tuk (which I didn't want to as the drivers are greedier than Phnom Penh's riverside tuk-tuk drivers, yes I know, hard to believe, but true) and went out to the Games Village to hook up with the Cambodian squad as they boarded their bus bound for the tv stadium this afternoon. Actually stadium is a misnomer, a hard, bumpy pitch with the grass cut but left on top is a more accurate description, hardly conducive to an international football team training for an important regional competition. Nevertheless the team trained for about an hour, starting with a warm-up and then a game which coach Scott O'Donell stopped at regular intervals as incidents took place that he felt needed correcting. One of the important points he made to his team was to be positive in the final third, take players on, look to get the wide players in behind the opposition, whilst in defence, if in trouble, boot it out or up the field rather than try to play your way out. All straightforward stuff but important points that need to be rammed home time and again before they sink in. You have to remember that this is a team that has very limited time together, unlike a club side who work on these tactics day in, day out over a whole season.
Worryingly, the fans' favourite, Nov Soseila sat out most of the afternoon session - held in bright sunshine - with an ice-pack on a sprained ankle, a remnant of their last game in Vietnam against Can Tho. The morning session had been held at the army stadium, which I didn't attend as I was stuck in the media center getting my press pass. Scott reported the pitch was much better so its disappointing they had to swap this afternoon. They return to the bumpy pitch tomorrow morning before their first look at the Chao Anuvong stadium in central Vientiane (five minutes from my guesthouse) for their afternoon session. A request for access to a swimming pool was met with a blank stare but time in the water worked well in Vietnam, so I know Scott won't take no for an answer. Rather than an overpriced crappy tuk-tuk, I waved down a song thaw for the ride back to town, considerably quicker and cheaper. Whoops, nearly forgot to mention that captain Sun Sovannarith takes his international duties seriously. So seriously, he missed the birth of his first child, this morning, a baby girl. "My wife and baby are okay," he beamed with pride.
Session over, but still time to learn. The coach gives his squad the benefit of his knowledge.
On-field instruction from coach Scott O'Donell in red
On-field running repairs for Chan Dara from physio Hay Sakiry
A look at the accommodation block where Cambodia's football squad are housed in the Games Village

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Scott on his SEA Games selection

In an exclusive interview with Cambodia’s national football coach, Scott O’Donell, I sought his views on the high levels of expectation that have gripped the Cambodian public following their BIDC Cup success earlier this month, just before they set out for Laos to take on the rest of the region’s footballing giants in the 25th Southeast Asian Games. “I expect the players to go out and give 100% and try their very best. 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, where we played Laos and 2 professional Vietnamese clubs in the middle of their pre-season. There’s a big difference in these two teams and the Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysian U23 teams and 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, great to see so many people supporting the national team but we have got to be realistic and there’s a big difference playing in a friendly tournament at home to playing in the SEA Games. 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."

How would you compare your current squad with the 2007 squad you took to Khorat in Thailand? “Five of the current squad, Seiha, Tiny, Sovannarith, Sokumpheak and Borey played for me in 2007. It will be an advantage for the players who’ve experienced SEA Games competition before, having those relatively senior players is a big help for the younger players, because we have got a lot of young boys in the team, and it’ll be their 1st trip to the SEA Games and their first real international tournament at a relatively senior level, so it’ll be a big help. 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. Its easy to do it in training, the question comes can they do it under pressure against better players and that’s the big test and that’s always going to be a question that’ll be asked when Cambodia plays, until we start playing regular international football and start pitting ourselves against better teams more regularly."

How will you approach the competition, against some of the region's best teams? "We’ll be approaching the games in the same way as we approached the BIDC Cup games and in training. How we played in the BIDC Cup is how we’re going to try and play, hopefully better, and in terms of our tactical approach and how we set ourselves up, formations and style, will be exactly the same. We haven’t trained for anything else, we don’t intend to get ten 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."

"What we did in the BIDC Cup is what we’ll do in the SEA Games. No intention of doing anything different from my first training session until this morning – we want to play attacking football if we can, if the opposition allows us to do that, and we’ll be trying to score goals. What we’ve got to work on improving is conceding goals."

"We’ve got to play them [Thailand and Vietnam], 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 & 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 in the U21 team in the Malaysian Premier League and 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."

Your preparation has gone well and are the players fit and well? "I said before the BIDC Cup it was an excellent tournament for us to participate in. The time we spent in Vietnam was great too. It was hard work, the boys did very well, they worked extremely hard and under the circumstances, for the six weeks we had to work with them, I couldn’t have asked for anymore. What I would’ve liked is a lot more time with the players, but circumstances didn’t allow that. Given that we only had six weeks to do what we did, I was happy with it."

"I wasn’t happy with their fitness when we tested them when we first arrived in Ho Chi Minh. But as I said the boys worked very hard and their aerobic and anerobic fitness levels all increased while we were there, as you’d expect it to do, I’m happy with it. Once again the problem we’ll have is in a high intensity game, being able to reproduce that over 90 minutes is a different thing. Fitness testing is a good indication but nothing replicates game situations of high intensity pressure – but I’m happy with the players fitness levels."

"The players are looking after themselves, looking after their injuries now and eating the right food and I’d like to think that when we train it’s a more professional approach. When we make a mistake in training, it’s just like making a mistake in a game, we don’t laugh and joke about it. The players are taking their responsibilities in training seriously because training is just as important as the games."

Why choose Sun Sovannarith as your captain? "He’s been in the national team for five years now, 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."

How important is the fans' darling, Nov Soseila, to your plans? "Sometimes he’s my darling and sometimes he’s not. 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."

How strong is your squad and any injury concerns? "The boys who may not make the starting eleven have been given plenty of opportunities, they know how we’re going to play and I’ve got full confidence in the nine players who’ll be sitting on the bench. I’ll have no hesitation to put any of them on the field at anytime during the game. They will all go out to do a job."

“We had a thorough check on Sothearath. He’s got a few issues but nothing that will cause any more damage. He’s structurally sound and in the last ten days in Vietnam he trained full on. He’s got confidence from being told there’s nothing seriously wrong with his knee. He played nearly a full game the other day at Can Tho and he’s an important player in the team and we missed him in the BIDC Cup."

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Talking to the press

Scott O'Donell talks to the press after the match. That's my head on the right. Pic: Tep Phany
Microphones were thrust under the chin of Cambodia's national coach Scott O'Donell immediately after his team's successful victory over HAGL in the BIDC Cup final and these are a few of his comments. "I am very happy to win the tournament. It's great, look at the crowd, everyone is very happy and it's great for the Cambodian team to get some success on home soil. The fans have been excellent in the way they've supported the boys tonight and throughout the competition. This has been a very important part of our preparations for the SEA Games. The whole tournament was aimed at that. Four games in six days is what we'll be up against in the SEA Games. We'll want to do as well as we can but as I said to the players to give me everything they've got - I can't ask for anymore than that."
Scott O'Donell answers questions from Apsara TV's Norodom Buddhapong
After the medal ceremony, I managed a couple of minutes with Scott for a more in-depth review of the game.
"This has been very important preparation, we're playing against good teams here and we've been making some mistakes in training and in games and we'll get punished when we play against good teams, and we got punished again tonight. We've got to start learning that we can't keep making the same mistakes, that's what was very frustrating tonight. Credit to the players, they worked hard but hard work is not enough, we've got to get smarter.
"(After leading 2-0) we made silly mistakes. We can't do that, we can't give the ball away, I said at halftime we were giving too many balls away, our plan was just to keep it simple. we scored a couple of good goals ourselves in the first-half, played some great attacking football and then we switched off; you lose concentration and you get punished for it. We expected their number 5 to start - for me he's their best player - and the tempo rose when he came onto the field in the second-half - he was one of the big differences in the second-half, they became more direct in their attack and caused us problems, and we didn't really cope.
"We made a couple of changes, I'm not taking credit for the comeback but fresh legs and a good cross into the box from Smey. I must say it 20 times a training session, if you get good, decent crosses into the box, you've got a good chance of scoring. We got a good cross in and a good finish from Pheak. I was very happy for Chhaya scoring his two goals, he works his backside off and I don't think he gets the credit he deserves. He's still got to work on his composure in the attacking third and keeping hold of the ball, but I'm very happy for him that he scored two goals today. He's a good boy, he works hard and he deserved it.
"The SEA Games are coming up quick. We're up against some tough teams and we've got to start learning from our mistakes. It's going to be difficult as it is and if we gift them possession and make it hard for ourselves, we're gonna be in big trouble. We still need to improve our anaerobic fitness - sprint, recover, sprint, recover. There's not much time but we've got to get sharper, make those runs and recover quickly. I'm very happy with some of the boys, whilst others we've still got to work on. There's still places up for grabs in the final 20 for the SEA Games and in the starting eleven. If boys come in and do well, they'll keep their positions in the team."
Caught on camera
Scott O'Donell receiving his winners medal at last night's ceremony
The FFC president & Commander of the Royal Gendarmerie Sao Sokha congratulates Scott on the team's success

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Friday, November 13, 2009

Press Talk

Match report for Cambodia v Laos
This is my match report from Tuesday's match and Cambodia's win over Laos, that appeared in yesterday's Phnom Penh Post. The match report from last night will appear on Monday, as will the report from Saturday's final. Confused? So am I. It's all about newspaper deadlines. The story is already online here.
I didn't pick a MOTM from last night's Cambodia game as to be honest not one player stood out as having a better game than anyone else. It was that sort of match for the home team. They never really got hold of the ball for more than a few minutes as Vissai NB kept it for long periods and when they did attack, over-eagerness and poor control gave possession away far too easily. It looked like the introduction of Chan Chhaya, Kuoch Sokumpheak and Nov Soseila in the closing minutes might make a difference but it didn't happen. I'm sure Scott will reintroduce all the players that sat on the bench last night for tomorrow's final against HAGL, who will be a different proposition from the team that caved-in on Sunday after leading 2-nil. It all adds up to a spicy encounter. Make sure you tell your friends and they tell their friends to get along to the Olympic Stadium tomorrow. And if you can't make it, watch the game live on the local TV5 channel. Tonight at the Tata restaurant over the Japanese Bridge, is the BIDC Cup's official dinner and I've been invited. At last I seem to made it onto the list of people to be invited to events, usually they forget to invite me. Tomorrow's match will no doubt attract a flood of VIPs, but the FFC have listened to our moans from a couple of months ago and designated a media area in the main stand, so a pat on the back to them for that. They've also upped their game in providing match information and we've been showered with a free bottle of cold water at each game. At this rate we'll have an internet connection in no time. Fat chance. They've even asked the media to select the competition's most valuable player and the best goalkeeper, who'll each get $1,000. It's nice to be asked.
At the post-match press conference last night, Cambodia's coach Scott O'Donell had this to say; "I wasn't happy with our first-half performance, we didn't play well and all credit to Ninh Binh they gave us a footballing lesson in how to keep possession. We played better in the second-half but still didn't have enough of a goal threat. Aside from one training session, this was the first time that team have played together and I cannot fault their effort or commitment. I was glad to be able to give all the players in the squad a run-out. I will sit down with my coaches tomorrow and select the team for Saturday. Everyone will be fit for the final except Chhun Sothearath, who has a knee injury. The supporters were great again and I think they understood what we were trying to do tonight in giving all the players the opportunity to play in front of their home fans. I hope they will turn out in their droves for the final on Saturday."

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Down but not out

The Cambodia U23s line up for tonight's match
Now for the bad news. The Cambodian U23s lost 1-0 to Vissai Ninh Binh in their final BIDC Cup group match tonight but of course are already through to the final on Saturday, where they will meet HAGL, who sent the Laos U23s packing with a 3-0 win earlier today. As expected coach Scott O'Donell took the opportunity to give his squad members who hadn't played in the previous games, a run out but they didn't step up to the mark as he would've hoped and they were definitely second-best against the V-League new boys. The only goal of the game came on 16 minutes when Nguyen Thanh Son ran through a big hole in the Cambodia back-line and fired a shot inside Sou Yaty's near post. To be honest VNB never really looked in trouble as the Cambodian team lacked real punch up front though VNB didn't really bust a gut either, doing just enough to claim the win. What they did do was keep possession of the ball and that was most frustrating as it didn't allow the Cambodian youngsters to get up a head of steam at any time. Aside from a couple of half-chances by Oum Kumpheak and Prak Mony Udom in the opening minutes, there was little else to get excited by and the game will give O'Donell a good indication of the strength in depth that he has to call on. It will be back to the full-strength team for the final on Saturday with no injury worries from the line-ups that beat HAGL first-time around and Laos.
O'Donell was realistic at the final whistle. "I wasn't happy with our first-half performance, we didn't play well and all credit to Ninh Binh they gave us a footballing lesson in how to keep possession. We played better in the second-half but still didn't have enough of a goal threat. This was the first time that team have played together and I cannot fault their effort or commitment. The supporters were great again and I think they understood what we were trying to do tonight in giving all the players the opportunity to play in front of their home fans. I hope they will turn out in their droves for the final on Saturday." I am sure they will, egged on by the impromptu band in the main stand and the Army orchestra and singers who provide the pre-match and halftime entertainment. The Cambodian line-up for the 6pm final against HAGL on Saturday will look very different from today's starting XI: Sou Yaty, Lay Raksmey,Chan Dara, Touch Pancharong, Tieng Tiny (capt) (Sok Rithy), Phuong Narong (Ieng Piseth), Lorn Sotheara (San Narith), Keo Kosal (Nov Soseila) Khuon Laboravy, Prak Mony Udom (Kouch Sokumpheak), Oum Kumpheak (Chan Chhaya).
The Cambodian team take a bow before their warm-up
The toss up by referee Sipaseuth from Laos with Tieng Tiny (blue) and VNB capt Luu Ngoc Hung
The Cambodian team waiting in line for the hand-shakes
The Cambodian bench before the match
Scott O'Donell, Cambodia's coach and his Ninh Binh counterpart at the after-match press conference

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

O'Donell on the SEA draw

Cambodia's national coach Scott O'Donell speaks about the SEA Games draw
Taking a break from the BIDC Cup for a moment, the draw for the SEA Games football competition was completed this week and threw up a very strong Group A that Cambodia will do exceptionally well to qualify from. There are five teams in the group and they include the 8 times gold medalists Thailand, much-fancied Vietnam, Malaysia, Timor-Leste and Cambodia. That will mean 4 games in a week for each of the teams. Two teams will qualify for the semi-finals to be played the following week. The first round of matches begin on 2 December.
I asked Cambodia's coach Scott O'Donell for his thoughts on the draw.
"I have to admit that it is a very difficult group, but we have to be honest with ourselves and admit that when we are competing in these regional tournaments, there are no easy games. I am looking forward to the SEA Games to see how my young players cope playing against such quality opposition. From the videos I have watched and the scouting reports that I have received so far, Vietnam and Thailand seem to be the two strongest sides going into the SEA Games.
"We have to be realistic, it is going to be very hard [to qualify]. But as I continually say to the boys, the most important thing is for them to go out and try to put into practice what we have been working so hard on in training and to give everything we have for the team. If we go out and give our best then I cannot ask for anymore.
"Yes it will be tough [4 games in a week] but it will be tough for the other teams as well. By the time the SEA Games commences we will have finalized the squad and will have 20 players who I have the confidence in to go out and do their best for Cambodia. In regards to my planning for the SEA Games, it will stay as planned. There was always going to be a chance that we would be playing four games. I see it as another international game where my players will get the opportunity to play against international opposition where they will gain invaluable experience."
In Group B, the hosts Laos will meet Myanmar, Singapore and Indonesia. All of the countries will be playing their Under-23 teams.

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Learning from our mistakes

Cambodia coach Scott O'Donell (left) and the Laos team manager at last night's press conference
At the press conference following last night's BIDC Cup match where Cambodia beat Laos 2-1 in a nail-biting game, the Cambodia national coach, Scott O'Donell, gave his views on what had just taken place.
"I am happy we won but not happy with the performance at all. The first 20 minutes was good and then we started making some silly mistakes and you couldn't have known Laos had 10 men for the last 30 minutes because they dominated possession and created a few chances. Its a good lesson for us. We've got to start learning how to defend leads. As soon as we scored 2 goals we stopped playing. We've got to learn to do better. It was a very frustrating and disappointing 2nd half performance from us.
"When we are under pressure, we make mistakes and make wrong decisions and that's what tournaments like this are all about, learning from our mistakes. Once again we conceded a goal from an unnecessary free-kick, we've got to stop doing that and we've got to learn or we'll get punished.
"We knew they left space between their back-line and the keeper and Kumpheak made an excellent run to beat the offisde trap, and a good finish (for the 1st goal). Then Soseila did the same, timing the run, good delivery of the ball which is something we've been working on in training, but after that we stopped doing it. I don't think we got in behind them again after that. When we do go ahead we've got to keep playing, something we've got to learn or we make it difficult for ourselves, as we saw in the 2nd half. It was 45 minutes of misery for the bench because we stopped playing.
"Its always a killer (to concede just before halftime). An unnecessary free-kick, sloppy, slow to react to the 2nd ball, its obviously a psychological thing that we've got to work on. The Lao lads came out on a high and full credit to them. I thought they played very well, particularly in the 2nd half with 10 men. They made it very difficult for us. We didn't keep possession of the ball, we didn't keep things simple, we tried to run with the ball, we must keep it simple, move the ball, move yourself, create options for the player with the ball, we stopped doing that in the 2nd half and we got punished. We've got to learn from it.
"With 4 games in 6 days I'll give some of the boys who haven't played some exposure and an opportunity, as they've worked hard in Vietnam, to play in front of the home supporters and I'll expect them to go out to win the game as well (against Vissai Ninh Binh on Thursday). I expect high standards from everyone in the squad. I want competition for places, there's 25 players in the squad and I'll expect the players who take the field on Thursday to give 100% and try to force their way into the starting XI for the final. Positions are up for grabs, particularly after our 2nd half performance."

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Never-say-die Cambodia

Cambodia's Under-23 team line up before they play HAGL
It's a few hours after the end of the game and I'm still catching my breath. The Cambodian national Under-23 team pulled off a dramatic 3-2 success against one of Vietnam's best club sides HAGL at the Olympic Stadium on Sunday night and sent a warning message to the other two teams in the BIDC Cup that they mean business. It was a classic counter-punch after HAGL took a two-goal lead in the 50th minute. Scott O'Donell's team dug into their reserves of grit and character that they've developed as a team in their month-long training camp in Saigon to get back in the game on 72 minutes with a Khim Borey penalty. It was that man Nov Soseila, who'd tormented the HAGL defence all night, who was floored by the full-back as he burst into the penalty box. It was all Cambodia at this point and more chances came and went before Chan Chhaya was tripped and Borey stepped up to lash in a 2nd penalty on 72 minutes to level the game. With the tide now firmly in Cambodia's favour, they pressed for a third and 4 minutes later, the HAGL goalkeeper dropped a cross onto the foot of substitute Prak Mony Udom and the teenager took off in wheels of delight as Cambodia nosed ahead 3-2. It was bedlam in the main stand as the Cambodian supporters went beserk, including yours truly. They had more opportunities to enhance the scoreline but 3-2 it stayed, leaving the national coach to enthuse: "I was very pleased with the character of the boys tonight, they can take great credit from that performance. We conceded two soft goals from set pieces and we have still got to improve on all aspects of our play, but they gave me everything they had and its a great morale boost for them. It was great to play and win in front of our own supporters and they were great too, even when we were 2-nil down." The Cambodian U23s line-up: Sou Yaty, Pheak Rady, Sun Sovannarith (capt), Tieng Tiny, Sok Rithy, San Narith, Phuong Narong (sub Oum Kumpheak), Nov Soseila (sub Prak Mony Udom), Keo Sokngorn, Chan Chhaya (sub Khuon Laboravy), Khim Borey.
In the opening game of the BIDC four-team tournament, the Laos U23s and Vissai Ninh Binh shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw that blossomed in the first-half and died off in the 2nd. Sayavuthi Khampeng gave Laos a deserved lead in the 10th minute, with VNB equalizing through Dang Van Thanh on 26 minutes. Both teams showed enough to suggest that all 4 teams in the BIDC Cup will be a tough nut to crack in the remaining round-robin games on Tuesday and Thursday.
Cambodia's national coach Scott ODonell makes a point at his after-match press conference
The Cambodian U23s await presentation to the match VIPs
HAGL, one of the V-League's best teams, lost 3-2 on the night after leading 2-0
Welcome to the BIDC Cup 2009 at the Olympic Stadium
The Laos U23 team earned themselves a 1-1 draw in their opening game
Vissai Ninh Binh came from behind to draw 1-1 against Laos U23s

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Press Talk

Click to enlarge
My article on the Cambodia U23 team in today's Phnom Penh Post. It'll be online later today.
The U23s played their final practice match of their month long training stint in Vietnam on Wednesday night. Although they lost 2-1 to Can Tho, this was another good work-out for the team ahead of the BIDC Cup that will begin this coming Sunday. Keo Sokngorn scored for the U23s, who completed their sixth practice match. The full list of their friendly match results are: Ho Chi Minh City W1-0, Thu Duc Central Sports University L0-1, Dong Nai Bien Hoa W3-2, Ho Chi Minh City U21 D0-0, Can Tho L1-4, Can Tho L1-2. The U23 squad will train this afternoon at the Olympic Stadium and tomorrow at the National Sports Center before they begin their BIDC Cup campaign against HAGL at 6pm on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium. Get along and support the youngsters. Just so you know who will be representing Cambodia, here is the 25-man squad which will be reduced to 20 players tomorrow:
Sou Yaty, Samreth Seiha (Ministry of National Defence)
Peng Bunchhay (Phnom Penh Crown)
Lay Raksmey, Sok Rithy (Preah Khan Reach)
Pheak Rady (MND)
Tieng Tiny, Peng Panharong (Phnom Penh Crown)
Chan Dara (Khemara Keila)
Sun Sovannarith (Naga Corp)
Prak Mony Udom, San Narith, Khuon La Boravy, Keo Kosal
Nov Sokseila, Oum Kumpheak, Lorn Sotheara, To Vann Thann, Ieng Piseth (MND)
Chhun Sothearath (Build Bright United)
Phuong Narong (PP Crown)
Chan Chhaya, Keo Sokngorn (PP Crown)
Kuoch Sokumpheak
(Khemara Keila)
Khim Borey (MND)

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

BIDC comes to town

The Cambodian Under-23s line-up against Singapore at the end of Sept
The BIDC Cup rolls into Phnom Penh beginning Sunday. Here's my preview of the Cambodian U23s for the PPP.

Football is back in the spotlight as the BIDC Cup comes to town

The Cambodian national Under-23 football team’s sights are set firmly on the Southeast Asian Games in Laos next month and they will use the BIDC Cup, which begins on Sunday at the National Olympic Stadium, as a gauge of their fitness and match readiness against one of their possible opponents in the SEA Games, Laos, and two of Vietnam’s best club sides, HAGL and VBN. Cambodia’s last competitive match on home soil was a 6-0 defeat at the hands of the Singapore Under-23 team on 27 September before national coach Scott O’Donell took his 25-man squad off to Vietnam for a month-long training camp.

A strict training regime for the past four weeks at the Thanh Long training facility just outside Ho Chi Minh City , together with a series of five practice matches against local opposition, followed closely on the heels of the end of the regular Cambodian Premier League season. O’Donell views the time away as time well spent. “The benefits of our stay in Vietnam have been that I’ve got to know the players better, particularly the ones that I have never worked with before. I think the players have also got to know each other better having spent so much time together. But more importantly it has allowed me to use this past month to get the players fitter than what they were before we arrived in Vietnam , and to get them thinking on the same wavelength as me regarding how I want them to play.”

However, O’Donell issued a note of caution. “Having said that, anyone who thinks that a one month’s training camp in Vietnam can make up for the lack of coaching, training and regular international exposure these players have received in recent years is kidding themselves. Ideally, the coaching staff should have spent this past month fine tuning for the BIDC Cup and SEA Games but instead have spent half the time getting the players to fitness levels required to play international football, and the other half of the time getting the players to understand how we want them to play. However, given the circumstances, the one month in Vietnam was very beneficial.”

The practice matches they played against local teams such as Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City were an important factor in coach O’Donell’s build-up for next month’s SEA Games, as will the four BIDC Cup matches beginning Sunday. “The practice matches have been vitally important in terms of seeing if the players have been able to put into practice what we have been working on in training. Obviously match fitness is a concern because the fitness levels required to play international football are much higher than that required to play in the Cambodian Premier League. And it is not just the aerobic fitness levels, but also the anaerobic fitness levels that need to be improved. The ability to run at high intensity repetitively over ninety minutes is something our players are not used to doing.”

The 25-man Cambodian squad that returned from Vietnam on Thursday will be reduced to 20 before they play their opening game on Sunday. They have a few niggling injury worries, though coach O’Donell’s goalscoring options have been boosted by the return to fitness of striker Khim Borey, the winner of the CPL’s Golden Boot award in 2008, but who missed most of last term with a niggling ankle injury. He played his first football for nearly six months in a practice match on Wednesday. O’Donell was full of praise for his squad of players on their return. “I have been very happy with the attitude and effort of the players over the last month. They have been working hard and have showed great character and commitment but it is going to take time for them to adjust to playing the way I want them to play.”

Whilst Laos U23s and Vissai Ninh Binh face each other in the opening match of the BIDC Cup competition at 3.30pm on Sunday, Cambodia will meet Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) under floodlights at 6pm the same day. HAGL, twice winners of the V-League and cup double in the last decade, finished sixth last season but are expected to push for honours next time around and have a smattering of foreign imports in their squad from Brazil , Thailand Czechoslovakia and Ghana . O’Donell was clear in his assessment of the task ahead on Sunday. “HAGL are going to be a huge test for the boys. Obviously they are one of the better teams in Vietnam ’s professional V-League and they have just finished a tournament in Phuket where they defeated the current Thailand league champions (Muang Thong United) and lost on penalties to the Thai national team. I think those results speak for themselves.”

And what does Cambodia ’s Australian-born coach expect from his team over the next week of competition? “My expectations are the same for every game that we play, whether it be a friendly game or a competitive game. I want the players to go out and try to play good football, and to do the best they can. If every player can come off the field knowing they have given their very best then I cannot ask for anymore. The BIDC Cup will be a good guide for me to see the players performing under pressure in a competitive environment against good quality teams.”

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Monday, November 2, 2009

U23s come unstuck

The Cambodian Under-23s came unstuck in their 4th practice match of their month-long training camp just outside Saigon. Unbeaten in their previous three games, they went down 4-1 to Can Tho, who finished 3rd in the V-League 1st Division last season. They have a chance to put that right on Wednesday evening, when they will face the same team again.
In Sunday's match, the national coach Scott O'Donell commented; "we had a very positive first half which finished 1-1 at the break, with Kuoch Sokumpheak scoring after some good lead-up work by Chan Chhaya. I made seven changes throughout the second half and we conceded three very soft goals, which was extremely disappointing."
The U23s have also been blighted by injuries that have disrupted preparations in the past week, with O'Donell lamenting; "frustratingly, we have been unable to field what we think may be our first eleven at any time while we have been here. But having said that I think I have given every player the opportunity to show what they can do. The training tour has allowed me to see players in training and playing situations and how they respond/react to different situations."
The six players who were unavailable for the Can Tho match were: Pheak Rady - allergic reaction; Keo Sokngorn - hip/groin; Oum Kumpheak - ankle; Chhun Sothearath - knee; Sun Sovannarith - toe; To Vann Thann - ankle. The U23s have one more game before their training camp comes to an end and they return to Phnom Penh on 5 November. They then have 3 days before their 1st match in the BIDC Cup on 8 November against HAGL from Vietnam.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Press talk

My article in yesterday's Phnom Penh Post on the Cambodian Under-23s ongoing preparation in Vietnam for the BIDC Cup in early November and the SEA Games in Laos in early December. Click here to see it online.
The Cambodian Under-23s played their 3rd practice match on Wednesday, drawing 0-0 with the Ho Chi Minh Under-21 team at The Thanh Long training centre. Coach Scott O'Donell commented on the game; "We dominated the first half creating a lot of chances but could not put them away. The 2nd half was more even but still we had some good chances. I was happy with most aspects of our game but our finishing was poor."
There are no injury worries to report from the squad's training camp just outside Saigon. The team are lining up two more practice matches to round off their month-long stint in Vietnam. The likely opponents are Can Tho, who finished 3rd in the V-League 1st Division last season and just lost out in the play-offs for promotion to the V-League proper. Their new coach is Lu Dinh Tuan, the coach at Ho Chi Minh City last season when they were relegated to the 1st Division. The Cambodian youngsters will return to Phnom Penh on 5 November and have two more training sessions before they compete for the BIDC Cup with an opening game against Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL) on 8 November at the Olympic Stadium.
Below are the two new additions to the Cambodian U-23 training squad currently in Vietnam. Both players, Ieng Piseth and To Vann Thann, joined the squad last weekend and both play their football for the Ministry of National Defense team in the CPL.
To Vann Thann (Ministry of National Defense)
Ieng Piseth (Ministry of National Defense)

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Progress report

Cambodia's national team coach Scott O'Donell is currently putting his Under-23 squad through its paces in Saigon, Vietnam
The Cambodian Under-23 football squad have now spent the past three weeks in Vietnam undergoing a rigorous training regime in preparation for the 25th SEA Games that will begin in Vientiane, Laos on 2 December. National team coach Scott O'Donell and his 25-man squad have two more weeks in their training camp at the Thanh Long training facility, half an hour outside of Ho Chi Minh City, before they return home on 5 November. Three days later they will compete in the four-team BIDC Cup that will take place at the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh between 8-14 November, and which will act as an important dress rehearsal for the SEA Games that begin a month later. Coach O'Donell has been pleased with his squad's preparations so far. "We have been able to totally focus on our football without any outside distractions and we get to use the excellent training facilities here at Thanh Long. A typical day starts with training at 6.45am and we break for breakfast at 9.30am. We have lunch at 1pm, resume training at 3.45pm, finish for dinner at 6.30pm and are in bed by 10pm. We've been into town a couple of times just to get the players out of the training centre and give them time to relax. But the players know we are not here for a holiday, we are here to prepare for the SEA Games in December. We tested the players on arrival and it showed that our endurance fitness levels were not good enough, which was a little surprising considering the players had just completed the CPL season. We have also been working on technique and tactics and how I want the team to play. We re-tested the players' aerobic fitness levels again today and there has been a big improvement from all the players, after 21 days of hard work," said the Australian-born coach.
There have been a couple of personnel changes to the original 25-man squad that began the training camp in Vietnam. Two Ministry of Defense players, To Vann Thann and Ieng Piseth have arrived to replace Nhuon Chansothea and Chhim Sambo. The squad's main injury concern has been star striker Khim Borey, who missed most of the recent CPL campaign with an ankle injury. To claw back his fitness, he's been undertaking extra training sessions and concentrating on his speed and agility that saw him collect the Golden Boot top scorer award in 2008. O'Donell highlighted the importance of the practice matches the team has played so far, against Ho Chi Minh City and Dong Nai Bien Hoa, both of which they won. "These games are very important because it gives us the chance to try the things we have been working on in training in game situations against strong opposition. You can work all you like on the training field but it's not until the players are under pressure in game situations, that you find out if they understand what we have been working on." The plan is to play three more practice games, beginning with a match against two-timeV-League champions Dong Tam Long An on 28 October, before they return to Phnom Penh.
For O'Donell, the BIDC Cup, with a purse of US$20,000 for the winners, will act as another important stepping stone to the SEA Games. "I will be using the BIDC Cup as a dress rehearsal for the SEA Games. It will be a good opportunity for the players to show what they can do and to confirm their places for the Games. My expectations will be the same for any game that we play - the players go out and try to play good football and to give 100%," stated the coach from their training headquarters just outside of Vietnam's cosmopolitan southern city.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

U23s win again

Yes I know I'm late with the football news, but I have an excuse...I'm in northeast Thailand.
The Cambodian U23s had their 2nd friendly game against a Vietnamese club side in a bid to add match sharpness to the daily training regime they are undertaking at their training camp in Saigon, Vietnam this month. With a win over Ho Chi Minh City already, they notched up a 2nd success, beating V-League Division 1 side Dong Nai 3-2 on Sunday. National coach Scott O'Donell gave the thumbs up to his players for coming from behind the win the game. "We were playing quite well and restricted them to very few chances, but conceded two very soft goals after 50 minutes. But credit to the players, they showed a lot of character to get back into the game and scored three goals - [via Nov Soseila, Kuoch Sokumpheak and Chhun Sothearath] - to win the game." The U23s will have a couple more practice games before they return home in time for the 4-team BIDC Cup that will take place in Phnom Penh in early November, though the real focus is on the SEA Games in Laos at the beginning of December.

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