Myanmar coach Kyi Lwin hoping to better his 1993 silver as a player
After winning silver as a player in 1993, coach Kyi Lwin hopes to lead White Angels to glory
(Si Thu Aung 39-pen, Nay Lin Tun 80)
(Vo Huy Toan 71)
How Myanmar coach Kyi Lwin must love it whenever Singapore hosts the South-east Asia (SEA) Games.
It was 22 years ago when Kyi, then a 28-year-old defender, helped Myanmar dramatically upset the hosts 5-4 on penalties after their semi-final had ended 3-3 in regulation time.
Yesterday, at the National Stadium, Kyi, now 50, tasted victory again, as his underdogs stunned Vietnam 2-1 in front of 22,000 boisterous fans, most of whom are from Myanmar.
"Yes, I think Singapore is a good place for me," said a delighted Kyi, who had to settle for a silver medal in 1993 when Myanmar lost 4-3 to Thailand in the final.
"I was a player in 1993 and, now as a coach, I am happy to reach the final again.
"I (am) very surprised about the result and I would like to thank all my players. They played very well, because Vietnam were a very strong team.
"We have reached the final, so we are very close to our target (of a gold medal). We've been waiting very long for this."
The football competition was an open tournament in 1993, unlike the current edition which is an Under-23 affair.
The last time Myanmar won the football gold was at the South-east Asian Peninsular Games in 1973, incidentally also hosted by Singapore.
Myanmar will play defending champions Thailand - who beat Indonesia 5-0 in the other semi final last night - in tomorrow's final at National Stadium.
The Vietnamese started yesterday's semi-final brightly, but it was Myanmar who drew first blood in the 39th minute when their youngest player, 18-year-old Si Thu Aung, converted a penalty after Vietnam's Ho Ngoc Thang stuck out his elbow to block a free-kick.
Vietnam, the bookmakers' favourites to reach the final along with Thailand, laid siege on their opponents' goal in the second half, but were denied by some wayward finishing from striker Mac Hong Quan and the brilliance of Myanmar goalkeeper Phyo Kyaw Zin, who made several top-draw saves.
The relentless Vietnam onslaught finally bore fruit in the 71st minute when Vo Huy Toan tapped the ball into the net after Phyo palmed a shot into his path.
The Vietnamese poured forward in search of the winning goal but it was the White Angels who would deliver the sucker punch 10 minutes from time.
Captain Nay Lin Tun unleashed a shot which took a deflection before dipping over Vietnam custodian Phi Minh Long before the underdogs held on for a famous victory.
Little was expected from this Myanmar Under-23 side who were missing key players called up for the World Cup qualifiers of the senior team.
Several squad members were also chosen to play at the Under-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
Kyi said his squad, unbeaten at this Games, are peaking at the right time and will play with confidence in the final.
Vietnam's Japanese coach Toshiya Miura was left to rue his team's missed chances.
He said: "Maybe Myanmar were lucky, because we had at least five chances. But this is not just Vietnam's problem - every South-east Asian team have the same problem with finishing."
Despite trouncing Indonesia 5-0, Thais wary of Myanmar
(Rungrat Phumichantuk 13, 50, Thitipan Puangjan 29, Narubadin Weerawatnodom 56, Chanathip Songkrasin 89)
Their coach Choketawee Promrut is right: The Thailand Under-23 football team are an unstoppable football force at this SEA Games.
Last night, in front of 11,000 fans at the National Stadium, the War Elephants convincingly beat the Indonesia U-23s 5-0 in the last four to book a final meeting with Myanmar tomorrow.
21: Chanathip Songkrasin’s (above) 89th-minute goal, his first in the tournament, was Thailand’s 21st goal in six matches. The defending champions have also conceded just once.
Even the suspension of centre back Tanaboon Kesarat in the final shouldn't hurt them.
With Myanmar missing their first-choice goalkeeper Phyo Kyaw Zin and key striker Naing Kaung Sat, a Thailand win looks a mere formality.
But Choketawee refused to get carried away with his side's splendid performance.
He said: "Myanmar run a lot, they are strong and they will be confident. It won't be easy."
However, defeated Indonesia Under-23 coach Zein Al Hadad, whose side have to pick themselves up to fight for the bronze medal against Vietnam tomorrow, can't see anything beyond a Thailand win in the final.
He said: "Thailand are a class apart from Myanmar, Indonesia and the rest of Asean."
Thailand took only 13 minutes to break the deadlock last night, when Rungrat pounced on a loose ball after Teguh Amiruddin parried Nurul's shot.
They doubled the lead through Thitipan Puangjan's header, before Rungrat headed in Thailand's third goal.
Right back Narubadin Weerawatnodom made it 4-0, leaving Chanathip to plant the final dagger in the Indonesians' hearts with a sweet left-footed effort.
The Thais have now scored 21 goals in six matches and conceded just one.
Worryingly for their South-east Asian rivals, they seem on the verge of developing a special generation of footballers - 12 of their U-23 players featured in last year's Asian Games where they finished an impressive fourth.
At the post-match press conference, Choketawee said: "We can dream, but we must also work hard. These players have been together for two years, and they are all capable.
"Let's win the SEA Games first, and then try to get them into the national team."