February 24, 2023
PHNOM PENH – The Cambodian national volleyball team changed up its strategy in its second international friendly against a visiting French side, with the against-the-odds victory drawing praise from many of their fans, including Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The first invitational against the French U19 side saw the Cambodian men tumble to a 3-0 loss, going down 25-2, 25-21 and 25-23 in the February 19 hit-out at the Olympic Stadium. On February 22, the home team was able to reverse their fortunes, drawing on the energy of their supporters to come home 3-1 in a four set thriller.
The premier was one of the first to offer his congratulations to the valiant players, taking to social media to send his best wishes.
“Congratulations and full praise to the brave Cambodian athletes who just wrapped up a masterful display in the Cambodia-France international volleyball friendly at the Olympic Stadium. I wish them further success in their next competition,” he said.
The Cambodian team made several changes to their starting lineup for the second match. They did not get off to a dream start, letting the Frenchmen take an early lead in the first set, but were able to dig deep and fight back for a 25-20 win. The second set was even tighter, with the local team just coming out ahead 25-21.
The French were able to switch the momentum in the third set, pushing the Cambodian side hard and claiming a 25-21 victory.
It appeared that the third set effort may have cost the younger French side, as the more experienced locals were able to shut them out 25-19 in the fourth set, thus claiming victory and drawing the two match series.
National volleyball coach Li Jun said the reversal of fortunes – from a 3-0 loss to a 3-1 victory – was the result of a change of strategy, as well as the will power and spirit of the players on the court.
“In the first match, we were too excited about playing an international match. I think we let adrenalin get in the way of controlling our performance, and tried to play them at their own game,” added the Chinese-born coach.
“After the defeat, we conducted video analysis to identify our strengths and weaknesses. Volleyball Federation of Cambodia [VFC] president Neth Savoeun and VFC secretary-general Aing Serey Piseth also met with the players and encouraged them to maintain their fighting spirit,” he continued.
Thanks to studying the team’s shortcomings, Li was able to construct a successful strategy for the second match.
“Because the French players are so tall, I adopted a new plan. I used our tall young players to counter them, while our older, more experienced players supported them and looked for scoring opportunities,” he said.
“The first two sets went well, although in the third, our younger players were tired. They were substituted for some of our wily older players for the fourth set. Their confidence was far higher than in our first match, and they were able to come away with the win. All of the players performed exactly as I wanted them to, and I am really proud,” he added.
This was the fourth recent international friendly match for the team, which is using them to warm up and perfect their strategies ahead of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May, which will be held on their home territory.
Cambodia beat Singapore 2 sets to 1 in October last year, in a three-set format friendly. They went on to defeat a Cuban U21 side 3-1 later that month, before entering camp to prepare for the French series.