Myanmar eye Lions' scalp
There was an air of confidence around Myanmar national coach Gerd Zeise, despite the fact the country is on a 17-game winless streak - without penalty kicks - against Singapore .
Zeise himself has yet to taste victory after taking over Myanmar from former Singapore national coach Radojko Avramovic last October.
But he insists his young charges - a squad with an average age of just 23 - can get the elusive win against the Lions tonight at the Thuwunna YTC Stadium.
"I know about the statistics, and Singapore are a disciplined and organised team, but we have to do our best to break this bad run, and we want to achieve that tomorrow," the 63-year-old German told The New Paper ahead of the AYA Bank Cup yesterday.
Myanmar were still known as Burma when the White Angels beat the Lions 4-1 in Kuala Lumpur in 1979.
Their football teams thrived in the '60s and '70s.
They won five successive SEA Games football golds from 1965 to 1973, and back-to-back golds in the Asian Games in 1966 and 1970, in addition to a runners-up finish at the 1968 Asian Cup.
According to Fifa records, the closest they have come to any sort of success after that was when they beat the Lions 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out after a 3-3 draw in the 1993 SEA Games semi-finals.
They also led 2-1 at the end of 90 minutes in the second leg of the 2004 Tiger Cup semi-final in Singapore, but with the aggregate score tied at 5-5 without the away goals rule, the Lions pounced with three late goals to win 4-2 in extra time.
But Zeise insisted his team have what it takes to upset the established order.
Perhaps his confidence stems from the fact that he led Myanmar to their first Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand last year.
And now, seven youngsters from that historic campaign have been promoted to his 23-man senior squad.
"You cannot reach a World Cup without a good team, but there is still a lot of room for improvement at the senior level," he said.
The warning signs are there for the Lions.
The Myanmar Under-23s beat the Young Lions at the Jalan Besar Stadium at last year's SEA Games.
Singapore coach V Sundramoorthy and his team caught a glimpse of their potential when the Lions were outplayed in certain periods of a friendly at Jalan Besar in March, and were fortunate to win 2-1.
That defeat was the third in an ongoing five-match winless run for Myanmar under Zeise, and his critics are getting louder.
Taking it all in his stride, he said: "That's how it is in football. If people are not patient, I cannot help it.
"It is normal to have pressure before every match, but I can handle it.
"We aim to make it to the Suzuki Cup final (in November) so the (AYA Bank Cup) is a good preparation to see where we stand.
"After that we will go to Duisburg for two weeks in September and maybe Holland and Belgium because these countries are nearby.
"Like we did for the team that qualified for the Under-20 World Cup, we need to have the players together for an extended period, go to Europe, and play quality opponents.
"Right now, we can be brilliant in training, but there is a difference in confidence between training and matches.
"If we can't score from five metres, we need to improve."
Skipper Yan Aung Kyaw is desperate for his team to get back to winning ways, and there will be no sweeter way than to finally beat familiar foes in front of a capacity crowd today.
Already a senior statesman at 26, the midfielder said: "We respect Singapore but we no longer feel inferior to them anymore.
"The defeat in March was hard to take because we felt we dominated and created many chances. If we continue to play as well and finish better, we will win."
- DAVID LEE