Europe trip aims to bolster team confidence
THE Myanmar national team has arrived in Germany to play a brief series of friendlies against European club teams as they prepare to host the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 in November.
The White Angels left Yangon on September 10 for the six-week trip, which will see them play seven matches against clubs from the Netherlands, Belgium, Cyprus and Italy.
On September 13, the team played against EVV Echt, a Dutch Division-3 club. After battling to a 1-1 draw in what was many of the players’ first international appearance, Myanmar head coach Gerd Zeise said that the experience – and not the scores – mattered most.
“We’ll play around seven friendly matches during this trip, but we aren’t concerned with the results,” Zeise said. “We may lose. We may draw. We might even win – but our goal is to get more international experience from these matches.”
The German-born head coach added that the international exposure could help bolster team unity: Nothing improves teamwork like the problem-solving inherent to visiting foreign countries in a group.
“I hope our form improves,” he said.
The decision to visit Europe is a strange one, as the Suzuki Cup will feature only teams from Southeast Asia. But Zeise said the cross-continental matches hold a higher teaching value than games against in-region opponents.
“European teams are better than Asian teams, and stronger as well,” he said. “So we’ll get more benefit for our guys. I also think the Europe trip will help improve our players’ self-confidence.”
It’s a unique plan from Zeise, who made his mark on Myanmar football with the U-19 team before taking over the U-20 squad in 2015. That team shocked the world by qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but his subsequent stint with the national team has only produced one win so far.
He attributes the early struggles to a lack of bonding, saying that he hasn’t “had enough time” with the team to make big changes.
“When I coached the younger boys, the players and I lived and travelled together for a long time. We had a lot of time to prepare and gel. This team, most of my best players have to compete against each other in the Myanmar National League. So don’t compare the two – we will try our best to deliver,” he said.
Today, Myanmar will play Koninklijke Berchem (Belgium Division-3), with another game on September 22 against Roda JC Jerkrade U-23 (Netherlands Division-1). Next week, they face VVVVenlo (Netherlands Division-2) on September 26 and Patro Eisden (Belgium Division-2) on September 28.
On October 5, Myanmar will play Cyprus’ national U-21 team, and on October 8 they will play their match in Cyprus against Division-1 club Enosis. After these matches, they will move on to the Italian leg of their tour.
German coach Gerd Zeise says the trip is an effort to bolster his team’s international experience in advance of the AFF Suzuki Cup in November.