Friday, August 18, 2017

‘We‘re going for gold’

WITH just five weeks to go for the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia, Myanmar’s women’s football team is all fired up, eager to make amends after missing the cut last time at the Singapore Games in 2015.

Coach Roger Reijners parting instructions to his pupils training for the upcoming SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: MFFCoach Roger Reijners parting instructions to his pupils training for the upcoming SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: MFF

The women‘s competition, to be played on a round-robin format, will feature five teams – host nation Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Myanmar – the top two teams qualifying to the final.

“We have to compete with very strong teams. If you look at FIFA’s world ranking, Vietnam and Thailand, for example, are ranked higher than Myanmar. There won’t be easy matches," national coach Roger Reijners told The Myanmar Times.

Thailand’s women team and Vietnam‘s have each won the competition once – the Thais in 2013 and Vietnam in 2009 – and on both those occasions Myanmar placed third.

According to Mr Reijners their strongest opponents will be Thailand and Vietnam. "But of course also Malaysia and the Philippines are developing. We really need to improve ourselves to compete in the Southeast Asian Games.”

Both technical and tactical improvements are needed, the coach pointed out, explaining that Myanmar will need to learn how to control each match. ‘‘Especially when it comes to tempo. How to control the tempo of a game? These are questions we need to answer during our training,” he said.

The women’s squad is currently in Japan on a preparatory tour in the run-up to the SEA Games. There they will be put on a rigorous training regimen and also play four matches against leading local teams.

“I‘m hoping they [Japanese] will play their strongest teams,” Mr Reijners said before the team’s departure, referring to their first tour match which is against Albirex Niigata, a leading side that plays in the Japanese first league.

“The generel level in Japan is high. Japan is one of the best countries in women’s football.”

He emphasised the huge importance of playing such strong opponents in advance of a championship such as the SEA Games: “The tournament is a challenge for us. That is why the preparatory training in Japan is a great opportunity for us.”

The experience should help polish up individual playing skills and put players in the proper frame of mind. “Winning is not easy. We know that and we know what we have to do on the pitch in order to win. But really essential is the mindset and belief that you can win,” said the coach.

He said his team is highly motivated, always prepared to learn and play by heart. He is proud to have accomplished that much. And while there remains room for improvement, Mr Reijners is optimistic. ‘‘Sure it is going to be difficult but we – as a national team – go to matches to win them. That goes for every tournament we enter.

‘‘Of course! We‘re going for gold.”

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