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Indian National Football Team: Know Your Rivals - Myanmar

Goal.com logo Goal.com 25-03-2017
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Country: Myanmar

FIFA Ranking: 172 Nickname: The White Angels Last official match played: Indonesia U-22 1-3 Myanmar (21st March, 2017) Coach: Gerd Zeise

A jewel off the Indian subcontinent, the Myanmar national football team's fortunes have mirrored the nation's political fluctuations over the past half a century. Burma as it was formerly known, was once a regional powerhouse in the ASEAN (AFF) sub-division of the Asian Football Condefedartion (AFC). In their cabinet are two Asian Games gold medals (1966 & 1970) and five consecutive South East Asian Games titles from 1965 to 1973. In their only Asian Cup appearance in 1968, Burma finished runners-up to hosts Iran. Post the golden era, they fared miserably until they reached the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup last year in their tenth attempt. The youngsters made a brief name for themselves in the world stage as they reached the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup after some stunning displays in the 2014 AFC U-19 Championship where they managed to reach the last four. The senior team however, did not even participate in the previous Asian Cup qualifiers as they were still categorized as an emerging country. They have seen some positive results since last year including a 1-1 draw in Lebanon during the second round of the 2018 World Cup/2019 Asian Cup joint qualifiers. Interestingly, Myanmar have been in the news for all the wrong reasons after the latest FIFA rankings were announced in March. They recorded the biggest points drop in the current ranking window with 30 points lost. As a result, they dropped 13 places to 172nd from 159th in February 2017. Now they are pitted against India, Kyrgyzstan and Macau in Group A of the 2019 AFC Asian Cup third qualifying round. A top two finish will see them make the trip to the UAE, signalling the end of their exile from the continent's flagship tournament after 51 years.

India were actually a dominant force in Asia and Burma were fresh off their successful Asian Games gold defence in 1971. A 9-1 result in favour of the Burmese kick-started India's descent from there on. During the last millenium, Burma and India faced off 14 times where the Blue Tigers managed to win only twice and were beaten nine times including that fateful night in Kuala Lumpur on Independence Day 1971. However, since being re-christened as Myanmar, three meetings have seen India win twice with a game going Myanmar's way. A 2-1 win in the 2004 LG Cup in Vietnam followed up with a 1-0 victory on home soil during the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup at the Gachibowli Stadium in Hyderabad. The game on 28th March will be played at the Thuwunna Stadium and the last time the same fixture took place at the very same venue, Myanmar knocked India off 1-0 during the qualification for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup.

Gerd Zeise took over the senior squad following his success with the U-20 side, replacing Raddy Avramovic last October. The German has worked well with talented youngsters like Nanda Kyaw, Aung Thu and Than Paing drafting them into his squad to play alongside the experienced Kyi Lin, Yan Aung Kyaw and Kyaw Ko Ko. Like another mainland-based South East Asian teams, speed and high determination are the main characteristics of Myanmar which will be boosted by combination of skillful players. However, the squad usually lack of discipline especially the defensive line. Zeise's side got a morale boosting 1-3 victory against an Indonesian Under 22 side last week. He will be expected to field the same eleven but the likes of Thet Naing and Aung Than Win could be given a run out in place of Maung Maung Lwin and Yan Naing Oo.

Kyaw Ko Ko : Despite being only 24, the forward is already the jewel in the national team. The Yangon United star has the ability to remain composed no matter the situation and that is what makes him such a potent scorer. He is also blessed with a good right foot, while his control and array of dribbling skills give him the ability to navigate out of tight situations and craft goal-scoring chances on his own. India's right back Pritam Kotal will be familiar with him given his club Mohun Bagan played Yangon United twice in last year's AFC Cup.

Aung Thu: The youngster is a frighteningly wonderful prospect for Myanmar. Having played a major role in the U-19 squad, Aung Thu belongs from the class of 2015, where he helped the team with his performance to qualify for their maiden U-20 World Cup. The 20-year-old striker, who is fond of Lionel Messi, has great pace, an eye for goal and an ability to ward off bigger opponents with ease.

GOALKEEPERS: 1. Thiha Sithu, 18. Phone Thit Sar Min, 23. Yan Aung Lin;

DEFENDERS: 2. Win Min Htut, 4. David Htan, 11. Myo Ko Tun, 13. Tluanghup Thang, 15. Phyo Ko Ko Thein, 17. Hein Thiha Zaw, 19. Thein Than Win;

MIDFIELDERS: 6. Yan Aung Kyaw [Captain], 7. Tin Win Aung, 8. Thet Naing, 14. Yan Naing Oo, 16. Sithu Aung, 21. Maung Maung Lwin, 24. Zin Ohyo Aung;

FORWARDS: 9. Aung Thu, 10. Kyaw Ko Ko, 20. Suan Lam Mang, 22. Than Paing. Follow Swapnaneel Parasar on Twitter - @Swapyo

Follow Eric Noveanto on Twitter - @HiroEric

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