Myanmar want the football gold
Underdogs Myanmar insist they are not here to make up the numbers
There is only one thing on the minds of the Myanmar Under-23 footballers - to win the football gold medal at the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
Just hours after touching down in Singapore yesterday, the White Angels led by coach Kyi Lwin headed for Serangoon Stadium for a training session, as if to prove that they mean business and are not here to make up the numbers.
Myanmar are considered the outsiders in Group A, behind hosts Singapore and Indonesia who are expected to qualify for the semi-finals.
The Philippines and Cambodia are the other two teams in the group.
While Myanmar team manager Than Toe Aung singled out Thailand as the favourites to retain the football gold they won in Myanmar two years ago, he saw no reason why his side can give the so-called favourites a good run for their money.
"There is not much debate over the goal we came here with - we want the gold medal," Than told the New Paper yesterday.
"I would say Thailand are still a bit stronger than the rest of the teams, but we aren't going to concede defeat just because of that.
"We believe we can win the tournament if we play hard and to the best of our abilities.
Kyi Lwin, exuding an air of confidence, shared the same sentiments, saying: "The team have been preparing and we are ready for the SEA Games. There is only one target for us. Gold."
Although Myanmar have an exciting group of young footballers coming through their system, not all of them will participate at the SEA Games due to the senior team's commitments in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
At the same time, the Under-20s are competing at the U-20 World Cup.
Myanmar's bid for the gold medal has been hampered by the absence of key attackers Kyaw Ko Ko and Kyi Lin, as well as teenage starlets Than Paing and Nyein Chan Aung.
For the SEA Games, the Myanmar U-23 squad will feature only four players who were in the senior team at last year's AFF Suzuki Cup.
Despite that, Kyi Lwin has full confidence in the squad at his disposal.
"We have the senior team, U-23s and U-20s currently competing at the same time," he explained.
"It does make things a bit difficult, but it's not a problem really.
"We have a talented group of youngsters coming through and I believe in the talent of all my players.
"It's not about the absence of our star senior players, but it's about the players who are here in Singapore and how they can play as a team."
Kyi Lwin also revealed how he picked the brain of senior team boss Radojko Avramovic, who coached Singapore for a decade and has plenty of experience in South-east Asia.
"Whenever he can, Raddy has given advice on how to prepare and train the team for the tournament," the ex-Myanmar international added.
"He has a lot of experience in this region and that's something we can use to our advantage.
"I don't think there's such a thing as 'big' or 'small' teams in the tournament.
"We will respect all of our opponents and just take things one step at a time."
The writer is a freelancer.