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Wednesday December 4, 2013 MYT 11:59:00 PM
Thursday December 5, 2013 MYT 12:15:30 AM
by eric samuel
The Myanmar football team (in red), seen here in the final of the Merdeka Cup which they lost 0-2 to Malaysia in September, are determined to win the SEA Games gold medal on home soil. Malaysia are the two-time defending champions. - Filepic
PETALING JAYA: The men’s Under-23 football gold medal is Myanmar’s to lose.
National Under-23 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said that the hosts are the favourites to end their gold medal drought at the SEA Games, which they last won 40 years ago (1973 SEAP Games).
“This is the mother of all gold medals. Myanmar want to win it badly ... the football gold medal means everything to them. They can win 1,000 gold medals but it won’t be as significant as the football gold medal ... that is what will be of great satisfaction to the people of Myanmar,” said Kim Swee.
He pointed out that the pressure will be on the home team but “I expect them to do everything possible to win it”.
“It is the same tensed feeling we experienced two years ago,” said Kim Swee, who expects the same kind of pressure-cooker atmosphere his boys faced when they defied the odds to retain the gold medal by defeating 2011 hosts Indonesia 4-3 on penalty kicks (1-1 after extra-time) in the final at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan, Jakarta.
In 2011, Malaysia had to call off their training session on the eve of the final due to crowd disturbance and had to go to the stadium in the armoured ‘Barracuda' vehicles for the final for security reasons.
In Myanmar, Malaysia are the top drawcards, having won back-to-back titles in Laos (2009) and Jakarta (2011).
Kim Swee’s boys have a favourable draw after being pitted against Brunei, Laos, Singapore and Vietnam in Group A. Group B comprises Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Timor Leste and Cambodia.
Expectations are high on Kim Swee’s boys to land a hat-trick of gold medals as they have the core of the team who won the gold in Jakarta two years ago. They incude Izham Tarmizi (goalkeeper); Mohd Fadhli Shas, Amer Saidin, Zubir Azmi (defenders); Nazmi Faiz, Irfan Fazail, Wan Zaharulnizam Zakaria (midfielders); and A. Thamil Arasu and Izzaq Faris Ramlan (strikers).
“The competition will be as stiff in Myanmar because there are four or five teams who are strong contenders for the gold medal. The level of competition has become tougher over the years,” said Kim Swee.
Five teams have entered the final in the last three SEA Games (2007-2011). Thailand defeated Myanmar 2-0 in 2007 while Malaysia won the last two finals – defeating Vietnam 1-0 (2009) and Indonesia 4-3 on penalties (2011).
Thailand have won the gold 11 times since 1977 and hold the record of eight consecutive victories from (1993 to 2007).
On paper, the two teams likely to be a threat to Malaysia in Group A are Vietnam and Singapore.
Vietnam picked up the silver in 2009 while Singapore are back-to-back bronze medallists in 2007 and 2009.
Kim Swee said that most of the teams have done vast preparations, including Myanmar, who trained in Japan for their final phase of training-cum-exposure.
“I’ve been told that some of the teams are dead serious and had even gone to Europe to prepare for the SEA Games,” he said, adding that even Singapore would be no pushovers.
Tags / Keywords:
SEA Games, Naypyitaw, Nyapidaw, Myanmar, football, Malaysia
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