Cambodia finally appeared to have shaken off the misfortunes that have befallen its football team in recent times with a statement win over the visiting Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in the ongoing Group G qualifiers for the 2020 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U19 Championship.
The Koupreys dominated from start to finish enroute to a masterful 9-0 victory over an underperforming CNMI team at the Olympic Stadium on Monday evening.
The win is the most lopsided for Cambodia in an international competition since it defeated North Yemen, 11-0, in 1966.
Cambodia’s win came after it almost beat a heavily-favored Malaysian side on Saturday. That game saw Cambodia wasting several good chances of equalising or pulling ahead in the final minutes.
CNMI, meanwhile, suffered its second straight loss after losing to Brunei, 3-4, in its opening game.
After the Kingdom’s disappointing loss to the Malaysians, Head Coach Koji Gyotoku promised to do better in their next game, and they delivered to the delight of the more than 3,000 football fans at the National Stadium.
After a subpar performance against the Malaysians, forward Sieng Chanthea, who entered the game as a substitute, finally found his groove, delivering a hat-trick that saw him score three goals in the last 10 minutes of the game.
Another forward, Thy Lieng, was also dominant for Cambodia with his two goals. Thy opened the scoring for the Koupreys with his goal in the 7th minute.
Forward Ly Mael followed with another goal five minutes later as Cambodia raced to a 2-0 advantage.
Thy and forwards Lim Pisoth and Wuth Tola came up with four more goals before the first half ended as the first half of the match ended with Cambodia on top, 6-0.
CNMI defenders, particularly goalie John Joseph Bucayo, could only watch helplessly as the Koupreys repeatedly sliced easily through their defense for easy goals.
The Cambodians also exhibited crisp passing that was mostly missing during their game against Malaysia.
In the second half, CNMI tightened its defense as it prevented Cambodia from scoring for more than 30 minutes. But a defensive breakdown in the last 10 minutes allowed Sieng to score repeatedly, including on a penalty kick in the 88th minute.
The CNMI offense, meanwhile, continued to perform dismally. Star forward Sunjoon Perry Tenorio, who scored two goals against Brunei, failed to score this time.
Cambodia’s masterful win against their opponents from the Pacific was a moment of pure joy for many Cambodians who were badly disappointed by the Koupreys’ lopsided losses to Iran and Iraq in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
“Congratulations to the Cambodian U19 team who moved up to second place after defeating Northern Mariana 9-0. Thank you to all the people who support the sport,” said Prime Minister Hun Sen on his Facebook page.
The CNMI, popularly known as Saipan, is a United States territory in the Western Pacific.
With the win, Cambodia is now 1-1, with two more games scheduled against Thailand and Brunei on Nov 8 and 10. The CNMI, meanwhile, will try to regroup when it faces Thailand and Malaysia on Nov 6 and Nov 8.
There are 46 countries in 11 groups that are competing for the chance to qualify for the 2020 AFC U19 Championship that will be held in Uzbekistan in October 2020.
The winner for each group and four runners-up will qualify for the championship.