| HO CHI MINH CITY (7 Oct, 2008) – Myanmar may be the defending champions but retaining the title will be a very tough expectation with hosts Vietnam, Thailand and newcomers Australia all intent on getting their hands on the prestigious AFF Women’s Championship which opens here tomorrow.
Myanmar will begin their title defence with an exciting opening tie against the home side at the Thanh Long Sports Complex in the afternoon.
“We have come here with an aim to defend the title, but we know it will not be easy against so many strong sides,” said coach Tin Myint Aung.
A former Myanmar national player, Myint Aung said his girls are ready for the battle. But from what the other team officials said today, it was clear that they too are well prepared for this tournament.
“We are here to challenge for the title. If I think we did not have a chance, we would not be here,” said Timo Schueneman, the head coach for Indonesia.
“We are in the midst of building this team and competing in this tournament is the first step towards realising this long-term process.”
Runners-up in the last tournament held in Myanmar, Thailand are determined to try and get it right this time around.
The Thais were the favourites last year but lost to the hosts in a closely contested final in front of a packed stadium in Yangon.
But Thailand’s hopes of raising the trophy may be thwarted by the likes of debutants, Australia.
Thai assistant team manager, Sopit Panomai, pointed to the Aussies as the main contenders for the title.
“It is obvious, they have a huge physical advantage not just over our girls, but all the other teams here. I’m counting on the fact that our girls may be faster and more skilful, and maybe this will be enough to take us all the way,” Sopit said.
Australia, although not fielding their full strength national team, will still be one of the hot favourites here.
According to head coach Tom Sermanni, 30 percent of the team played in the recent AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
When asked why would a strong team like Australia compete in the AFF Women’s Championship, Sermanni said this: “We are part of football in this region, so it is important that we participate. This tournament will be a good experience for our players, especially playing under these conditions.”
Vietnam, third in last year’s competition, meanwhile played down their chances.
“We are the hosts but that also means there is pressure on us. We will try our best and hope to go as far as we can. It will be tough with so many strong teams,” said manager Nguyen Huu Bang.
Laos coach, Volker Hofferbert, said that his team had two months to prepare for the tournament and would give it their best shot.
“I am the temporary coach of this team but we had some time together to work on this tournament and the team has shown good progress.”
The first match between Vietnam and Myanmar kicks-off at 3.30pm (local time) while the second Group A tie will see Indonesia taking on Laos later in the evening.