Fans in the capital are being urged to turn out in numbers to support the Cambodian Under-17 national football team as they face their Vietnamese counterparts in a friendly game at the National Olympic Stadium this evening.
Both coaches said yesterday that their respective squads are very similar to last year’s AFF Under-16 Youth Championship which was hosted in Phnom Penh.
On that occasion coach Dinh The Nam’s Vietnam secured a 1-0 victory at the semi-final stage and painfully ended the Cambodian youngsters’ run.
Nguyen Khak Khiem scored the only goal in the 27th minute – the Cambodian defense failing to deal with a dangerous free-kick and the havoc caused in the box from the dead ball saw the ball tee up nicely for Khiem to rifle home the winner.
For tonight’s encounter, the Vietnam youngsters arrived in the Kingdom via the Bavet border crossing on Monday and have made use of the facilities at the National Olympic Stadium here in Phnom Penh despite heavy downpours.
Cambodian Captain and midfielder Kim Heng said he expected it to be tight.
“We weren’t too far away from them [last year] so I think it will be a close match.
“We like to play long and short so we intend to mix it up,” said the 17-year old from Preah Sihanouk.
“But concentration at the back will be vital so we will need to stay alert.”
The match forms the core of a raft of sporting events marking the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties between the two nations.
While the match is merely a youth exhibition, judging by comments on the Football Federation of Cambodia’s social media page, fans are once again expected to turn out in numbers.
Cambodian senior team coach Leonardo Vitorino also lent his voice to calls for a strong turnout.
“Let’s support the Under 17 national team and let’s make the stadium full on Wednesday,” he said.
“I will come to watch our young players and support them,” said the Brazilian, who famously celebrated a first win at the helm of the senior team, 1-0 over Afghanistan earlier this month.
Vietnam’s Ambassador to Cambodia, Thach Du, has called 2017 an important milestone in relations between the two countries.
“The joint organisation of the celebration activities aims to bring together the two countries’, especially younger generations, and to understand more about their time-honoured friendship and solidarity,” said Ambassador Du.
Secretary of State for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Ung Sean, added that sport was a tool that could foster friendship and solidarity between the two neighbours’ often-fraught relations.