Myan­mar heads into cru­cial match with Viet­nam

The Myanmar Times - - Sport - KYAW ZIN HLAING kyawz­inhlaing@mm­times.com

THE boys are back. Myan­mar’s Na­tional U-19 foot­ball team will face Viet­nam U-19 in the sec­ond match of the 2016 KBZ Bank U-19 Cup to­day at Man­dalar Thiri sta­dium in Man­dalay.

The home team is play­ing host this week, as the four-na­tion in­vi­ta­tional cup in­cludes Thai­land U-19 and Ja­panese club Sap­poro’s U-18 squad, in ad­di­tion to Myan­mar and Viet­nam. Billed as a lead-up to the 2016 Asian Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion U-19 Youth Cham­pi­onships later this year, the in­vi­ta­tional pits the na­tions’ bright­est young stars against each other.

In the open­ing match, Myan­mar en­joyed lit­tle suc­cess against Ja­panese Sap­poro, los­ing 4-1 on Au­gust 22. De­spite hav­ing a year of ex­pe­ri­ence and growth on the younger U-18 team, Myan­mar’s U-19 play­ers couldn’t hold on to a first-half one-goal lead.

Sap­poro came roar­ing back af­ter the break, ty­ing the game and surg­ing ahead on the strength of their taller, bulkier strik­ers. Myan­mar could not keep up.

“I know my play­ers tried their best,” Myan­mar U-19 coach Myo Hlaing Win said af­ter the match. “But we couldn’t con­trol the ball in the sec­ond half. What­ever – I’m sat­is­fied with my play­ers’ per­for­mance.”

He added that the tour­na­ment’s struc­ture – which re­quires teams to play a game ev­ery day – would prove tire­some for his side, es­pe­cially those that played against Sap­poro and need ex­tra rest.

While Myan­mar was los­ing to Sap­poro, Viet­nam was top­ping Thai­land 1-0 on the same day. Viet­nam man­ager Hoang Anh Tuan said his side be­lieved they had a good shot at win­ning the cup.

“Ev­ery com­pet­ing team in this com­pe­ti­tion is stronger [than years past],” he said. “In Septem­ber, we will host the AFF U-19 Cham­pi­onships, and this Man­dalay trip is good prepa­ra­tion for those games. We be­lieve we can win this KBZ Bank U-19 Cup.”

Hoang Anh Tuan added that who­ever wins this tour­na­ment will likely en­joy mo­men­tum and mo­ti­va­tion head­ing into the cham­pi­onships next month. It may very well be the Viet­namese side, which ar­rived in the Golden Land hav­ing won the last two U-19 match-ups against the host team. The game to­day is an im­por­tant chance for Myan­mar to se­cure a berth in the fi­nal, hav­ing failed to gain points in their open­ing loss.

Coach Myo Hlaing Win – a for­mer na­tional star striker in his own right – ad­mits that Viet­nam are stronger than his boys.

“In the first match against Thai­land, they didn’t even use their main play­ers and they still won,” he said. “But we’ll keep our fo­cus and try our best.”

Myan­mar’s best has not al­ways been enough in the AFF U-19 com­pe­ti­tions, though this week’s tour­na­ment of­fers a smaller se­lec­tion of com­pe­ti­tion. Over the last decade, the U-19 squad has failed to fin­ish higher than fourth in any of the AFF U-19 Cham­pi­onships. Their best fin­ish came in 2011 – the last time Myan­mar hosted the tour­na­ment – when the team led their divi­sion be­fore los­ing in the semi-fi­nals.

Pho­tos: MFF

Myan­mar’s U-19 squad dropped its first game to Ja­panese U-18 club team Sap­poro by a score of 4-1 in the KBZ Bank U-19 Cup’s open­ing game.

Viet­nam had no trou­ble dis­patch­ing the Thai side 1-0, and looks to be the favourite head­ing into to­day’s match-up.

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