Myanmar counting on fans to overcome Vietnam
Coach Kyi Lwin says fans have been his team's 'secret weapon'
MYANMAR v VIETNAM
(Today, 2pm, Singtel TV Ch 135, MediaCorp okto, Toggle Ch 5)
It has been 42 long years since Myanmar won the SEA Games football gold medal.
This afternoon, they will hope to be once step closer to ending their drought by beating Vietnam in the first semi-final at the National Stadium.
From 1965 to 1973, Myanmar - then known as Burma - picked up five consecutive golds in football.
They also won the Asian Games twice and reached the final of the 1968 Asian Cup.
But their glory days are a thing of the past as the White Angels have only come close to winning the SEA Games gold twice, with runners-up finishes in 1993 and 2007.
This afternoon's match will be a repeat of the last-four meeting between Myanmar and Vietnam eight years ago. Incidentally, Myanmar's run to the final in 1993 was also the last time the Games were held on Singapore soil.
Myanmar coach Kyi Lwin can be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu ahead of today's crucial clash, given he was part of the side that claimed silver 22 years ago.
He is confident he will again be able to guide his team to the final again, even though he will have to do it from the bench and not on the field this time around.
"We are ready and we have full confidence we can reach the final," he declared in yesterday's pre-match press conference.
"We have great belief, we have worked very hard and we are well prepared for Vietnam.
"Everyone in the team believes we have what it takes to win the gold medal."
Kyi Lwin's charges have yet to taste defeat at the Games and have been spurred on by their legion of fans who filled up Jalan Besar Stadium in all their group matches - something he believes has been key to their excellent displays so far.
"We have taken things step by step, but our secret weapon has been our supporters," he added.
"They have been tremendous and I want to thank all of them - from those who are based in Singapore, to the ones who came from Myanmar to support us.
"Hopefully, this will continue tomorrow and they can help us advance to the final."
In stark contrast to Kyi Lwin's hoarse voice and boisterous demeanour, the technical area across from him will be occupied by a scholarly-looking Japanese tactician.
Toshiya Miura has got the Vietnamese playing a brand of efficient and clinical football that has seen them labelled as Thailand's main challengers for gold.
Nonetheless, he is aware that his charges can ill afford to underestimate their opponents.
"I'm not surprised Myanmar are in the semi-finals," he said.
"I believe they had three solid months of preparation in Europe and, before the tournament, we drew 2-2 with them in Vietnam.
"It's clear that they have some quality and it's not going to be an easy game.
"You can never be 100 per cent certain because anything can happen in football, but we are confident and we believe in our abilities."