Cambodia supporter Srey Vannak, 17, sat crestfallen Aug 20 on the paint bucket he’d been using as a drum to cheer on his country.
“They shouldn’t have lost,” he said following the national under-17 football team’s 2-3 defeat to Thailand on the second day of the nine-nation Asean Football Federation Championship. “I hope Cambodia beats the other teams,” he added.
Despite their exuberance, a face-painted and flag-waving Olympic Stadium crowd of approximately 20,000 could only watch with bated breath as Cambodia failed to catch up with the Thais.
Following the match, Thailand manager Payong Khunnan tipped his hat to his opponents. “The two teams are very good,” he said. “Cambodia is strong, very strong.”
Cold silence greeted a 13th-minute goal when 15-year-old Thai striker Rakpong Chumueang gave his side the lead with a header.
The stadium roared 16 minutes later, however, when Cambodian skipper Keo Sokngorn, also 15, outran the Thai defense and slotted the ball into the left corner of the net.
After a 37th-minute goal, the Thais compounded their lead in the second half when 14-year-old Narakorn Kana found the net in the 71st minute.
But within seconds the stadium appeared to shake as Cambodian right-winger Hou Sambo, 15, put a draw within reach, scoring with a right-footed strike from within the penalty area.
Prak Sovannara, Cambodia’s manager, said his side had simply gone down to a stronger team.
“We made little mistakes. The boys have little experience,” he said. “I hope in the second match the boys will focus their feelings.”
National Military Police Commander and Football Federation of Cambodia President Sao Sokha said the score line on Aug 20 had been more respectable than in previous meetings with Thailand.
“We lost by less this time,” he said, adding that the size and energy of the crowd had been unexpected. “When they come in such numbers like this, I am surprised myself.”
The Aug 20 match had been a rain date with free admission as downpours flooded the pitch Aug 19, forcing a cancellation of the opening day’s second match after Indonesia shut out a hapless Brunei 3-0.
FFC Media Officer Tep Phany said Monday that organizers had sold only 6,200 tickets—1,500 at a dollar apiece and the rest for $0.25 each—and he could not explain why crowds several times larger had turned out both days.
Also on Monday, Vietnam defeated Singapore 2-0. Cambodia is scheduled to face Indonesia at 2 pm Aug 21.