Myanmar reach final in Singapore

Myanmar fans in Singapore embrace Coach Kyi Lwin after the win over Vietnam seen through LED TV in at the Yangon City Hall. (Photo-Aung Kyaw Htet/EMG)

Myanmar Under-23 footballers have beaten Vietnam 2-1 in the semi-final of the 2015 Singapore Southeast Asian Games at a 55,000-seater stadium in the city state, to progress to the June 15 final.

It is Myanmar’s first men’s final since the 2007 games and resulted in celebrations across the nation. They will face either Thailand or Indonesia on Monday.

Myanmar took the lead in the 38th minute with a Si Thu Aung penalty for his fifth goal of the games and, in the 78th minute, captain Nay Lin Tun scored the winner. The Under-23s are managed by Than Toe Aung and coached by Kyi Lwin, both retired midfielders, who played in a side that overcame Vietnam 20 years ago.

Back in 1995, both of them played in the SEA Games with Than Toe Aung captaining and Kyi Lwin the midfield dynamo, ensuring their place in the nation’s football history.

In this year’s clash, tempers frayed when a Vietnamese attacker attempted to get the ball from Myanmar keeper Phyo Kyaw Zin, who lashed out and kicked the striker only for the referee to show a straight red to the forward.

The U23 team receives only a small portion of the Myanmar Football Federation’s (MFF) budget. The MFF hired ex-Serbian goalkeeper Radojko Avramović to manage the national team for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and German coach Gerd Zeise for the Under-20s. The MFF sent the U20s to western countries for friendlies but the U23s played only two friendlies before the SEA Games with fixtures against Serbia and Japan being cancelled. Therefore their success in reaching the final is a source of pride for both former players.

It was the 11th meeting between Myanmar and Vietnam in the SEA Games (previously the SEAP Games). Myanmar has five wins, two draws and four defeats, with a goalless draw in the last encounter, a group match in 2011. Myanmar has reached eight previous SEA Games finals in 1961, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1973, 1993 and 2007, winning five times with the most recent being a 3-2 victory over South Vietnam in 1973.