Four years ago yesterday, Cambodia’s national football team celebrated its finest hour since the team was rebuilt after the civil war years.
On April 27, 1997, a crowd of 10,000 at Olympic Stadium looked on as Cambodia held Indonesia to a 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifying match. Twenty minutes into the second half, Cambodia’s Hok Sochetra broke a scoreless tie after a nifty pass from Lim Raksmey. Indonesia salvaged the draw with 10 minutes left in the match on a header by Widodo Putro.
The same circumstances exist four years later as the two teams prepare to meet in a World Cup qualifier Sunday at 3:30 pm at Old Stadium in Phnom Penh. They met last Sunday in Jakarta and Indonesia was an easy 6-0 winner. Four years ago, Indonesia whipped Cambodia 8-0 in Jakarta three weeks before the return match in Phnom Penh.
Indonesia coach Benny Dollo, who arrived at Pochentong Airport Thursday morning with a traveling party of 33 players and team officials, said there was no doubt his team was more experienced than Cambodia’s squad.
“We’re not worried, because we played well against Cambodia at home,” Dollo said. “But the Cambodians aren’t bad. They are well-organized, have good skills, and the players have a good fighting spirit.”
Indonesia has breezed through its first two matches in the four-team qualifying tournament. They defeated the Maldives 5-0 two weeks ago, and will meet favored China for the first time on May 13.
Ustin Nawari has scored four goals in the two matches, but six other players have also scored, showing the depth of Indonesia’s attacking ability.
Cambodian football officials are hoping for a larger crowd than the 4,000 who attended the 1-1 draw with Maldives on April 15 during the Khmer New Year holiday.
Old Stadium proved an adequate substitute for Olympic Stadium, now closed for nearly a year for renovations that have barely begun. A $60,000 repair job—including $47,000 contributed by tycoon Teng Bunma and $13,000 by the Cambodian Football Federation—put both the field and spectator facilities in proper working order.
The match will also be televised live on TVK.