Myanmar heads into crucial match with Vietnam
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.
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.