White An­gels stum­ble ahead of Suzuki Cup

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

IT was sup­posed to be a warm-up. It was sup­posed to be a con­fi­dence booster. In­stead, Myan­mar’s home match with Oman ended in a 3-0 de­feat on Novem­ber 14 at Thuwunna Sta­dium, rais­ing ques­tions about the White An­gels’ chances in the up­com­ing Suzuki Cup start­ing Novem­ber 20.

Af­ter the loss, coach Gerd Friedrich Zeise said he’s un­cer­tain of the team’s chances to make it out of the group stages.

“In the Suzuki Cup, we’ll give the best form we can with our cur­rent ta­lent,” he said. “But I can’t prom­ise we’ll climb up to the semi-fi­nal. What­ever – we’ll pre­pare as best we can.”

Com­ing off a six-week stretch of games against Euro­pean club teams abroad, the team re­turned to a small wel­come, with just a few hun­dred spec­ta­tors root­ing on the home team.

That might have been some small re­lief for the Oman squad, whose last visit to Myan­mar in 2011 – for a FIFA World Cup 2014 qual­i­fier – ended early in a tor­rent of sta­dium chairs, shoes, bot­tles and stones af­ter a ref­eree awarded a con­tro­ver­sial penalty.

That fi­asco cost Myan­mar el­i­gi­bil­ity to qual­ify for the 2014 World Cup and con­tin­ues to af­fect the coun­try: None of Myan­mar’s 2018 World Cup qual­i­fiers may be played in-coun­try, with home matches rel­e­gated to Thai­land.

But on Novem­ber 14, the small fan­base re­mained calm as the White An­gels took the field. Zeise went with the same line-up he’d used in the Novem­ber 4 0-0 friendly draw against In­done­sia save for two ex­cep­tions: mid­fielder Myo Ko Tun stepped in for the less ex­pe­ri­enced Yan Naing Oo, while Suan Lam Mang started over the team’s new­est striker Kaung Sat Naing.

The changes showed early re­sults, with crisp passes from the Myan­mar side lead­ing to great chances. They looked to take an early lead in the 8th minute, when Myo Ko Tun headed home only to be de­nied by the cross­bar.

Just two min­utes later, Oman striker Ali Al Na­har es­caped con­tain­ment on a sparkling through-ball, slip­ping it past keeper Kyaw Zin Phyo to put the visi­tors up by one.

Myan­mar re­sponded with fu­ri­ous charges up­field but could not solve the Oman de­fence. Just be­fore the half, Zeise subbed Kaung Sat Naing in for Suan Lam Mang, giv­ing the 23-yearold striker a chance to shine.

Kaung Sat Naing re­placed Kyaw Ko Ko – ar­guably the na­tion’s big­gest star – in a shock­ing man­age­rial de­ci­sion dur­ing the team’s Euro­pean tour just over a month ago. In his sec­ond-ever game rep­re­sent­ing the na­tional team on Myan­mar soil, he came through with a last­minute flurry be­fore the half ran out. Oman keeper Faiyz Al Busheidi stood the test, how­ever, mak­ing a se­ries of bril­liant saves on the doorstep.

In the sec­ond half, Myan­mar strug­gled to sus­tain pres­sure. Oman striker Qasim Ar­dan buried one past Kyaw Zin Phyo’s left side in the 55th minute, lift­ing his side to a two-goal lead and rel­e­gat­ing Myan­mar to des­per­a­tion. They paid for press­ing too far for­ward in the 69th minute when Mohsin Al Khldi fin­ished a counter-at­tack in the back of the net.

De­spite the loss, Zeise pointed to the team’s con­sis­tent abil­ity to cre­ate chances as progress. It was a mes­sage that Oman head coach Juan Ra­mon Lopez Caro echoed in his post-game com­ments.

“I heard that Myan­mar had made good prepa­ra­tions ahead of the Suzuki Cup,” he said. “So I’m happy to beat what ap­pears to be a stronger team. We re­ally played well in the first half.”

Though he added that he felt his de­fence gave too many chances to Myan­mar’s strik­ers, he pointed out that giv­ing up chances is bet­ter than goals.

“Scores are the life of the game,” he said. “Myan­mar strik­ers could cre­ate the goals.”

Zeise said Myan­mar’s strug­gle was less its abil­ity to close and more its abil­ity to pro­tect the net.

“Our de­fence was weak, and in the sec­ond half our form de­te­ri­o­rated,” he said. “We lost po­si­tion. But be­fore the next match, I’ll fix those weak­nesses.”

On Novem­ber 20, Myan­mar will face Vietnam in the Suzuki Cup’s group (B) open­ing match fol­lowed by games against Cam­bo­dia on Novem­ber 23 and Malaysia on Novem­ber 26.

Photo: Naing Lin Soe

Oman’s Raed Saleh (left) chases af­ter a loose ball with Myan­mar’s Mg Mg Lwin (right) in close pur­suit dur­ing the teams’ friendly at Thuwunna Sta­dium on Novem­ber 14.

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