| Fadhil Yunus |
THE Cambodia national under-21 team had been given the nod by their league’s top clubs to pluck their best young players, a move which ultimately led to their maiden final appearance in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for ASEAN Youth Football Tournament 2018 following a 2-1 win over Myanmar.
Cambodia under-21 head coach Prak Sovanarra thanked the Cambodian league clubs whom the players are registered with after they agreed their release for international duty following fruitful discussions despite the ongoing league season.
“We have the chance to choose the best players from the league. From the first game until now, I keep on changing the players because the quality is not different.
“We’re only looking for somebody who has more fitness. For example, number 19 (Narong Kakada) stayed on the bench but today he played in the first 11 and scored two goals,” he said.
The head coach only assembled the squad in a short time, but the luxury of fielding the best young players from Cambodia’s top flight gave him a flexible squad.
The national under-21 team saw a limited time of each other in training but individually the players are featured prominently by their clubs in the Cambodian league.
“When we talked about the team on the first day, it felt like it was a new team with no preparations for the tournament. But they have playing experience throughout the year.
“The first game against Lao PDR was a lesson for us. We led 1-0 in the first half and then in the last minute they scored the winning goal, and we learnt from that.”
He said that his players showed no fear against Singapore and Myanmar, which was in contrast of their encounter against Lao PDR when their mind-set were only in defence.
The defeat to their fierce rivals nearly convinced Sovannara that his team has been sent packing with the game against Singapore seemingly a foregone conclusion but their winning mentality helped put them on course of winning the competition.
“We learnt a lot and we had already packed everything to go back home before the game against Singapore. But we found a winning mentality against Singapore and we came back.”
Meanwhile, a Myanmar representative said they had to make changes in their playing style to adapt to the wet conditions after the heavy downpour delayed the kick-off.
“Because of the weather conditions, we had to change our style and it was difficult for our players to adjust to these conditions. They conceded a goal very early which made the game really difficult,” the official said.