One look at the two teams on the field, and spectators knew Cambodia’s football team was in trouble. Almost to a man, China’s players were a head taller.
Size, speed and experience all came into play as the Chinese breezed to a 4-0 World Cup qualifying match win Sunday before about 12,000 fans at Old Stadium, including a good-sized contingent of Cambodian ethnic Chinese fans and a scattering of followers who made the trip from China.
Li Jin Yu scored in the 5th minute and the 63rd minute before leaving the contest to rest up for next Sunday’s key match against Indonesia. Qu Bo’s goal in the 43rd minute and Ma Mingyu’s in the 58th minute rounded out the scoring.
Cambodia successfully defended 14 corner kicks by the Chinese, and goalie Suon Dara was again spectacular, stopping a half-dozen shots from close range and capping his day by diving to his right to stop a penalty kick by China’s Fan Zhiyi in the closing moments.
Cambodia’s offense consisted almost entirely of long, hopeful passes to striker Chan Arunreath. He was called offsides on five of those passes, but the sixth was ruled legal and he almost beat Chinese goalie Jiang Jin to the loose ball in the open field. But Jiang Jin knocked the ball away.
Soeur Chanveasna was one of the undersized Cambodian defensemen who fought to protect his goalkeeper. “The way they played was to kick the ball higher than we could get,” he said. “When they played the ball on the ground, we had a chance.”
“I tried my best,” Cambodia defender Chea Sameth said. “They were just too tall. But I think we learned some techniques from playing them.”
“Against the best Asian teams, it’s just not possible for us to win yet,” said Cambodian coach Joachim Fickert. “We still have years of hard work ahead of us.
“I would have liked to have seen more fighting spirit, and a little more pressure put on them, just to give our defense time to rest.”
China coach Bora Milutinovic was asked if his squad was good enough to reach the final round of 32 teams. “That remains our dream,” he said with a smile.
China takes a 3-0 record into next Sunday’s match with visiting Indonesia. Cambodia, now 0-4-1, closes out the tournament with a May 20 match at China.