With support in the stands, Myanmar believes in football final miracle
Thais huge favourites, but Kyi Lwin says his men will be spurred on by their fanatical following
MYANMAR U-23 v THAILAND U-23
(Tonight, 8.30pm, National Stadium, Live on MediaCorp OKTO)
From Ho Chi Minh to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, almost everyone you stop and ask will say Thailand are a shoo-in for football gold tonight at the National Stadium.
Tell that to the Myanmar Under-23s, and they will scoff and point to the 10,000 boisterous fans at the National Stadium on Saturday who cheered their team to a shock 2-1 semi-final win over Vietnam.
The hosts' dream of featuring in the football final at their brand new 55,000-capacity National Stadium at the Singapore Sports Hub may have been shattered, but there will be a sizeable crowd descending on the arena at Kallang for one of the showpiece events of these SEA Games
For the underdogs, "home support", expected to number around 15,000 at least - the ticket allocation for Myanmar is sold out - will give them the edge in the stands against the gifted and powerful Thailand Under-23 team.
Speaking yesterday, Myanmar coach Kyi Lwin said: "The fans helped us against Vietnam and there will be even more of them in the final (tonight).
"Thailand are the favourites, but so were Vietnam (in the semis).
"In a final, anything can happen."
Deja vu is in the air as this SEA Games football final is a repeat of the one from 1993, the last time the Republic held the biennial event.
On that occasion, Thailand beat Myanmar 4-3 at the old National Stadium.
While Thailand were widely expected to be one of two teams in the final, not many had tipped Myanmar to even get past the group stage, as they were grouped together with hosts Singapore and 2013 silver medallists Indonesia.
The team were also weakened after two stars, striker Kyaw Ko Ko and midfielder Kyi Lin, were summoned for national team duty in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Yet, here they are, in the final taking on the region's best Under-23 side for SEA Games fold.
"Teamwork and good team spirit has got us here," said the 50-year-old coach, who was a member of the 1993 side.
"Even without the stars, we (targeted) the gold medal, because we know we have good players.
"To reach that target, we will have to be very strong one more time."
After Myanmar shocked the Vietnamese, Thailand blitzed Indonesia 5-0 in the other semi-final, as if to send a warning to their final opponents.
The defending champions, who have won the football gold a record 14 times, have steam rolled into the final, scoring 21 goals and conceding just one.
Midfielders Chanathip Songkrasin and Thitipan Puangchan have had a stellar tournament, and goals have come from 10 different players.
The War Elephants have no injuries or suspensions to sweat over, and Thailand coach Choketawee Promrut has asked his players for one more ruthless performance.
"I want them to give me one more good performance. That will be enough to win the gold medal," Choketawee said.
Asked if Myanmar's fervent support in the stands will make a difference, the 40-year-old shook his head, and said: "We will have many Thai (fans) at the stadium too. I think you will see 50-50 (in the stands)."
BY THE NUMBERS
As Burma, the Myanmarese have won the SEA Games football gold five times (1965-1973).