Myanmar meets Laos tonight in the first game of Round 2 at the 2018 World Cup qualifier in the Asian confederation, with both sides hoping for a win and an invaluable three points to get their campaigns off to a winning start.
Laos coach Steve Darby, a recent appointment, urged fans to get behind their national side at a press conference in Vientiane.
“The game needs a great effort from us and from the fans who come,” The British national said.
The Thim Xad – or national team – garnered an impressive draw against Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
Myanmar most recently suffered a 1-0 friendly loss to Cambodia in Thailand. A Khim Borey goal in the first half was enough to separate the two sides.
Myanmar’s footballers will be buoyed, however, thanks to their last outing against the Laotians in 2014’s AFF Suzuki Cup in Vientiane. Myanmar bested the local favorites by 2 goals to 1 thanks to strikes from Nanda Lin Kyaw Chit and Kyaw Ko Ko.
“People have been waiting to play at a World Cup for a long time,” Radojko Avramovic, coach of the Myanmar national team, told the Associated Press. “It’s all over the media.”
Coach ‘Raddy’ will have to make do without players Than Piang and Nyein Chan Aung, who were representing the nation at the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Myanmar, where the passion for football and especially the English Premier League brand is strong, was a gold medalist at the 1966 and the 1970 Asian Games. Although they are unlikely to progress from a tough Group G where they face South Korea, Myanmar will look to secure points against ASEAN rivals Laos as well as Kuwait and Lebanon to put them in the running for a ‘best-runners-up’ spot – of which there are 4. Best-runners up progress into the third round of the qualifier.
But they have to face Laos first, in the team’s own backyard.
Laos defender Khampoumy Hanevilay was at his coach’s side during the Wednesday morning press conference.
“We have had good preparation, although both teams have good players. It’s a World Cup qualifying match at home, and we have 90 minutes to express our game and fight, fight, fight,” the 24-year old said. “We’ll try to do that as best as we can to win the game for the fans. Anything is possible in football. We’re going to give our all and hopefully we can win.”
2015 has been quite a year for football in Myanmar, with the senior side, ranked 141 in the FIFA rankings, receiving a bye into the second round of World Cup qualification.
Separately, the U-20 team returned to a rapturous reception after their sojourn in the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, even though they didn’t win a game. The U-23’s, meanwhile, are in impressive form competing in the SEA Games in Singapore, currently sitting atop Group A. Their performances is sure to inspire confidence in the senior side ahead of today’s vital opener in Vientiane.
Despite the FIFA scandal, the 2018 World Cup in Russia looks set to go on as planned.
The Asian Football Confederation has been a vocal supporter of outgoing president Sepp Blatter especially with Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup.
In a recent statement, the AFC said it is closely monitoring the situation and will discuss “the best way forward for both FIFA and world football.” In a separate statement, it also reiterated its support for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The AFC and the whole Asian football community stands with Qatar and we all look forward to hosting the World Cup, and welcoming the world,” the brief statement added.
Text: Ismail Vorajee
Photo / Facebook / Wikicommons
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