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The Burmese men’s under-23 football team defeated hosts Singapore 2-1 on Thursday evening at the Jalan Besar stadium, giving them two wins from two matches and making them odds-on favourites to qualify from the group.
The opening ceremony for the SEA Games takes place in the Lion City on Friday, but the qualifying group stages for the much-anticipated football championships kicked off ahead of the official schedule due to the number of games to play.
Following a stealthy 4-2 victory over Indonesia on match day one, confidence was riding high in the Burmese locker room, and they came out of the blocks quickly against Singapore.
With Burmese fans estimated to number at least half the 7,500 spectators in the stadium, the away team must have felt as if they were playing at home.
It was no surprise then that Burma went ahead in the 24th minute, when captain Tun Nay Lin sneaked in at the back-post to slot home an in-swinging free-kick.
The Singaporeans rallied immediately and, following a handball in the box by Phyo Ko Ko Thein, they equalised with a penalty after 33 minutes.
In the second half, both sides came out in attacking formations, but after a slew of chances at either end, it was Burma who snatched what would prove to be the winning goal. It came on the hour-mark when a free kick by Ye Ko Oo baffled the hosts, taking an awkward final bounce over the flailing legs of goalkeeper Syazwan Buhari.
Burma held on for the win, and will next face the Philippines on Sunday.
The optimism in the Burmese camp in Singapore stands in marked contrast to that at the current U-20s World Cup in New Zealand where Burma’s chances of qualifying hang by a thread.