Scouting the Opponent: Myanmar
When: Friday, March 23rd, 2011 0900 GMT
Where: Thuwunna Stadium, Yangoon, Myanmar
FIFA Rank: 161 (30th in AFC)
Previous Encounters: None
23/03/2011 v. Bangladesh L 0-2
21/03/2011 v. Philippines D 1-1
08/12/2010 v. Philippines D 0-0
05/12/2010 v. Singapore L 1-2
02/12/2010 v. Vietnam L 1-7
Background: It's hard to put your finger on this Myanmar team. For one thing, they almost always play the same opponents (Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines , & Vietnam) but over the past three years results against those sides have run the gamut. The White Angels rarely play teams from Western Asia. The last time they did was during the 2004 Asian Cup qualifiers they were shellacked by Bahrain (1-3, 0-4) and Iraq (1-3, 0-3).
Their record in the AFC Challenge Cup has been quite good. Finishing fourth in the last two editions of the tournament. They qualified for the 2010 tournament with a 100% record in their qualification group (4-0 vs. Macau, 2-1 vs. Bangladesh, 1-0 vs. Cambodia). The AFC gave them a direct berth for the 2008 tournament.
Both the 2008 and 2010 tournament were nearly identical for Myanmar. Big losses against a contender in the group stage (3-0 vs. Korea DPR in 2008, 3-0 vs. Tajikstan in 2010) followed up with wins against South Asian sides (2008: 3-0 vs. 3-0 vs. Nepal, 3-1 vs. Sri Lanka 2010: 4-0 vs Sri Lanka, 2-1 vs. Bangladesh). They then were promptly dispatched in the next round by the eventual winners (2008: 1-0 vs. India 2010: 5-0 vs. Korea DPR) only to end up in the 3rd/4th place playoff against former opponents at the group stage where they could do little to improve on initial performances (2008: 4-0 vs. Korea DPR 2010: 1-0 vs. Tajikstan). It's hard not to be cynical with these results, Myanmar may boast back-t0-back semifinal appearances but they haven't exactly beat any team of note.
Even Myanmar's recent footballing achievements are puzzling, they dominated Philippines in the first half of their 1-1 draw only to be completely dominated in the second half by the Azkals. The 2-0 loss to Bangladesh does very little to shed light on what sort of team we will be facing. Myanmar has their back up against the wall but it remains to be seen if Milan Zivadinovic can motivate his team to claw back and qualify for the AFC Challenge Cup Finals.
Challenge Cup Squad: Zivadinovic has called up a young squad with half the players under the age of 23. All the players ply their trade in the Burmese league, so for Jabal Al-Mokaber trio (Amour, Wadi, and Hijazi) this match could serve as a useful preview of their upcoming AFC President's Cup tie against Myanmar champions Yadanarbon.
Key Players: If Myanmar are going to pull an upset they are going to need goals. The burden will fall on Yadanarbon striker Yan Piang who was voted as the best player in the Myanmar league after finishing as its top scorer. Despite playing 135 minutes of miserable football the hosts find themselves with an outside chance at qualifying. It remains to be seen whether or not this team will seize the opportunity or simply capitulate.