The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to have some concerns and issues about the Azkal’s upcoming matches in Myanmar. My concerns are not about the team’s skill in terms of beating the other teams there, after all, the Azkals have the highest FIFA ranking in its group at number 151. Myanmar (161), Bangladesh (174) and Palestine (178) are all ranked below us.
My concerns cover all the other factors that might affect the game. Remember that we were in the same situation as Mongolia, wherein they were ranked way below us at 183, but managed to beat us because they were playing in their home pitch, and because we had trouble adjusting to the sub-zero degree centigrade weather condition.
In Myanmar, we have similar problems in that, first, Myanmar will be playing on their home pitch, so they will have that advantage of morale with their countrymen egging them on.
Another problem, is the fact that Myanmar is a military dictatorship. This is a government which is used to having its own way. It is suppressing, and even killed its very own people in the past. This is the reason why there is little, if no internet there in Myanmar even in this day and age. The government there sees it as a means to suppress its people from organizing uprisings.
Couple this with the Myanmar government refusing our local networks to cover the games live, and they have effectively removed checks and balances for the game. Myanmar wants us to use the coverage they will take of the game, which they could edit to their advantage.
‘The North Korean Example’
To make things worst, Myanmar is probably looking to emulate its “idol” North Korea’s success in Football. Remember that the Nokors reached the World Cup stage in South Africa last year. Like North Korea, Myanmar is basically a pariah state (to a lesser degree) in the international community due to is repressive policies towards its own people.
Success in international sports events like Football is one way for the state to keep its people’s minds from the miserable conditions they are in, so I would expect Myanmar to pull out all stops to ensure a victory there on their home turf.
All these factors make me think that Myanmar is a much more formidable foe than the FIFA rankings tell us. Take note also that the Azkal’s new found respectability in Asia makes us a prime target on their crosshairs.
What I am concerned about are things that could affect the outcome of the game, like Offside Goals, for example. Or a Penalty Kick at a slight provocation.
All in all, I think the Azkals should not underestimate these series of games next week. Sure, we have excellent reinforcements in new Fil-Foreigners like Guirado and Lucena coming into the team, and that we are ranked higher than our opponents as far as FIFA is concerned, but the above factors should even things up, and even maybe give our opponents a slight advantage.
The Azkals should not be overconfident, they should be vigilant, and treat these games as if they are the underdogs.
I hope I am wrong about Myanmar, but we shall soon see what happens next week.