The White Angels
Gerd Zeise (Germany)
The White Angels were once a regional powerhouse, winning two Asian Games gold medals and five consecutive South-East Asian Games titles from 1965 to 1973, but they have failed to hit the heights in the ASEAN Football Championship, reaching the semi-finals just once in the first 10 editions.
Their performance in 2014 under Serbian coach Radojko Avramovic was reflective of what has transpired in previous tournaments as they qualified well by finishing top of a group that included Timor Leste, Brunei, Cambodia and hosts Laos but failed to deliver in the main competition.
They were unable to capitalise on playing against 10 men for much of their opening game against Malaysia as drew 0-0 before losing 4-2 to hosts Singapore and 2-0 to eventual champions Thailand to finish bottom of their group with just a single point.
But while Myanmar’s form in the AFF Suzuki Cup may not inspire too much confidence from their passionate fans, the recent performances of their youth teams suggest that they may be able to emulate or even surpass their lone semi-final appearance in 2004.
Their youngsters produced a stunning performance at the AFC Under-19 Championship in 2014 as they reached the semi-finals and earned them a spot in the 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup while their Under-23s gave a strong account of themselves at last year’s South-East Asian Games as they took home the silver medal.
After some disappointing results in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Myanmar parted company with Avramovic last October and elevated Gerd Zeise to the senior squad following his success with the Under-20s.
The German has worked well with talented youngsters like Nanda Kyaw, Aung Thu and Than Paing and drafted them into his squad to play alongside the experienced likes of Kyi Lin, Yan Aung Kyaw and Kyaw Ko Ko.
Zeise has seen some positive results by his team this year including a 1-1 draw in Lebanon and a 3-0 win over Hong Kong and the lift they will get from playing in front of their own fans during the group stage could help Myanmar to finally deliver on their potential on the regional stage.