Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Going for the plum

Football is the blue riband event of SEA Games for it is the only sport in which all the 11 countries of the Southeast Asian region or ASEAN compete.

National players in action in their last competitive international match against Singapore in Yangon recently. Myanmar won 2-0 . Aung Khant/The Myanmar TimesNational players in action in their last competitive international match against Singapore in Yangon recently. Myanmar won 2-0 . Aung Khant/The Myanmar Times

In many of them, Myanmar included, it’s virtually their national sport because football boasts a fan base no other sport even comes close to.

Winning the football gold, therefore, is the ultimate prize.

For the 29th SEA Games, where Thailand are the defending champions, Myanmar is placed in Group A which includes Malaysia, Singapore, Laos and Brunei, while Group B comprises Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia and East-Timor.

The luck of the draw, it is evident, favours Myanmar because Group B is tougher of the two groups.

For Myanmar, the key is to try to win all their matches in the group stage. But even if Myanmar lose to Malaysia in their round-robin clash but finish second overall in their group, they would qualify to the next round, knock-out stage. In such a scenario Myanmar wouldn’t be meeting their hosts again, until the final, provided the former win their semi-final.

Coach Gerd Zeise, left, and his support staff line up before start of the Myanmar-Singapore match. Aung Khant/The Myanmar TimesCoach Gerd Zeise, left, and his support staff line up before start of the Myanmar-Singapore match. Aung Khant/The Myanmar Times

The fight for the two semi-final slots from Group B is going to boil down to the winner of the clash between Vietnam and Indonesia, with reigning champions Thailand expected to top the group stage.

Looking at individual skill, Myanmar can be said to be the team that possess the best players. The team is composed of players who competed in the U-20 Olympic matches and the 2015 SEA Games. Most of the players have been a part of top clubs, so they’re experienced.

PREPARATION

As part of their training for the SEA Games, the national team hosted friendly matches featuring four countries. The team also took part in the AFC U-23 qualifying round of matches last month when the players got to show off their skills.

Gerd Zeise, the head coach, says his players are ready for the SEA Games. He even said they are ready to challenge for the gold medal.

Translation by Kyaw Soe Htet

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