Cambodia’s Under-21 national football team coach Prak Sovannara derided the kingdom’s ‘fickle’ fans after the young Angkor Warriors secured qualification into tonight’s semi-final in the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy youth championship in Brunei.
“The fans like to see only the negative points, said Sovannara who saw Sos Suhana’s 23rd minute effort hand Cambodia a 1-0 win over their Singaporean counterparts on Monday.
“When the national team lost to Laos they [fans] criticise and say that the players are not good enough. But when we win like we did against Singapore last night, they say that Singapore weren’t up for playing as they were already through.”
“This kind of thinking does not have a positive impact on the national team. As a football coach, I would suggest that there be a lot of encouragement. Whether we win or lose. Do not constantly blame us, and consider the positives,” he added.
Despite the criticism, Sovannara said he was delighted with his team’s performance.
“Our team are on a break from league action and didn’t have much preparation for this tournament. We lost to Laos 2-1, we knew that we only have one chance to go to the semi-final and that was defeat Singapore. So we had to take the chance and the boys did well,” said Sovannara.
“Myanmar are the defending champions and considered to be best team in the tournament. But in football, anything can happen,” he added.
Sovannara will be without Mat Noron after the youngster suffered a nasty facial injury from the high boot of Singapore’s Irfan Ahmed. The latter met with the Cambodian squad alongside his father after the match to extend his apologies to Noron.
It is not Sovannara’s first stint guiding Cambodia’s national squads. He was in charge of the senior squad at the 2008 AFF Suzuki Cup qualification, but departed a year later for a return to club football.
He was appointed for a second stint in 2012, before various successful tenures at Nagacorp, Kirivong Sok Sen Chey and a title-winning season with Boeung Ket Angkor. He was back at the helm in two successive home defeats to Myanmar and Jordan last year.
His reappointment was met with much criticism from Cambodian fans, who accused the Football Federation of Cambodia of looking backwards instead of taking a fresh approach – a characterisation that Sovannara has tried to combat.
Cambodia will now face Myanmar in the first semifinal match tonight at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, Berakas. Singapore and Timor Leste contest the second semifinal match.