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SEA Games football: Cambodia to face Philippines today

Jose Rodriguez T. Senase / Khmer Times Share:
The Cambodia team training for the 2019 SEA Games. FFC

The Cambodian U22 national football team will face their counterparts from the Philippines today for their first game in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

Football games are played ahead of the official opening of the SEA Games, which are scheduled for Nov 30 at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan province.

The Cambodia versus Philippines match will kick off at 7 pm (Cambodia time) at the Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Felix Dalmas-coached Cambodian team departed from Phnom Penh International Airport on Friday evening and arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila later that evening. They were welcomed and greeted upon their arrival by Philippine sports officials.

Cambodia, which is among the top footballers in Southeast Asia, is expected to give the hosts a tough time on the pitch.

The Koupreys are expected to rely on the offensive prowess of forwards Keo Sokpheng and Sieng Chanthea. The two players have been phenomenal in their prior international outings.

Sokpheng scored Cambodia’s lone goal in their 1-1 draw versus Hong Kong in the 2022 World Cup qualifier match that was held at the Olympic Stadium last September. He also scored for Cambodia as the home team’s friendly match versus the Mongolian national team two weeks ago ended in a 1-1 tie.

Chanthea, meanwhile, was among the best performers for the Cambodian side during the recently-concluded Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U19 qualifier that the Kingdom also hosted.

The Philippine team is expected to be led by several Fil-foreign players, including midfielder Stephan Schrock, defender Justin Baas and midfielder Griffin McDaniel.

Azkals veteran Amani Aguinaldo, who plays professionally in Malaysia for PKNP football club, is also expected to perform well for the hosts.

The Philippines is looking at a better performance this time after repeated failures in the past. The Philippine football team has yet to advance past the group stage in the SEA Games since the U22 qualification was introduced in 2001.

The Philippines has never been known for football until the early 2000s, when its national team started winning games abroad.

In 2010, the Azkals, as the Philippine national football team is popularly called, advanced past the group in the 2010 AFF Championship. That performance, which has been the best so far for the Philippine team in an international football competition, was credited for making football relatively popular in the basketball-crazy nation.

Cambodia is in Group A together with the teams from the Philippines, Malaysia, East Timor and Myanmar. In Group B are Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Brunei.

The top two teams from each bracket will advance to the semi-finals. Cambodia’s next game will be against East Timor on Nov 27.

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