SINGAPORE, June 13 — Thailand will take on surprise package Myanmar in the final of the Southeast Asian Games football tournament after the defending champions blew away Indonesia 5-0 in the semi-finals today.
The Thais, 14-times champions of the under-23 gold at the biennial Games, proved a class apart at Singapore's National Stadium and were rarely troubled once Rungrat Phumichantuk eased home a rebound in the 13th minute of a lop-sided contest.
Thitiphan Puangjan added a second on the half hour when he beat the goalkeeper to head home an inswinging corner from the impressive Nurul Sriyankem.
Rungrat was left free to head home a third in the 51st, Narubadin Weerawatnodom shot in a fourth before the hour mark and the outstanding Chanathip Songkrasin wrapped up the scoring a minute from time with a neat finish.
Indonesia will take on Vietnam in the bronze medal match on Monday in their final football act before succumbing, like the rest of the country, to a FIFA ban after the government interfered in the running of the local football association.
Thailand will start Monday's final as heavy favourites but they will be wary against a diminutive Myanmar team who produced another all-action display full of energy and commitment to upset Vietnam.
Playing their fifth game in 12 days, they hung tough through long periods of pressure before recording a 2-1 win earlier today to leave them in sight of their first football gold at the biennial multi-sports games in 42 years.
"Now we are close, we have waited for a long time, I hope our team can become champions," coach Kyi Lwin, who won silver as a player after losing the final to Thailand at the 1993 Games in Singapore, told reporters.
Little was expected from the side missing key players held back for the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign and also competing at the under-20 World Cup in New Zealand but their fighting spirit has captivated a nation.
Adopting the slogan "No Stars, No Problem" they went unbeaten through the group stages with impressive victories over Indonesia and hosts Singapore, but faced their toughest task today.
They soaked up plenty of pressure before wide midfielder Aung Si Thu calmly stroked home a 39th minute penalty after Vietnam defender Ho Ngoc Thang stuck his elbow out to block a free-kick.
Vietnam continued to press and were guilty of wasting several chances before Vo Huy Toan levelled with 20 minutes to go after the ball kindly fell in front of an unguarded net.
But Myanmar, with their tallest outfield player only 1.71 metres tall and the goalkeeper Phyo Kyaw Zin not much bigger, notched the winner in the 78th minute when captain Tun Nay Lin's long-range effort looped off defender Nguyen Than Hien into the net. — Reuters