HRH Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah (R), the Honorary President of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam, being introduced to the national team at the Yangon Hotel in Myanmar last night. Picture: BT/Yee Chun Leong
KWON Oh-son knows how Brunei can overcome hosts Myanmar in their ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup qualifiers today.
The qualifiers in Yangon mark the national team's toughest test in years and a trip to the tournament proper will prove that Brunei football is on the right track after winning the Under-21 Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy in March which came after a win against Myanmar in the semi-finals.
Though Kwon coached that victorious Under-21 side as well, he is fully aware that mentoring the national team is a whole different ball game he seems confident enough.
"We need to be organised in defence and also be strong on the counterattack. This is the combination that we need," the national coach told The Brunei Times yesterday.
"Myanmar are a good team. They are very physical, have good balance and always put good pressure on the ball.
"They have one of the best strikers and are also strong at midfield, but their weakness is at both their rightback and leftback," he added.
Kwon might not have known it but Kaung Si Thu is the only recognised striker available to Myanmar at the moment following injuries to Yan Paing and Kyaw Ko Ko, as reported on the AFF Suzuki Cup website.
The Sultanate are coming off a disappointing 5-0 loss in an international friendly to Indonesia last Wednesday but the South Korean insists it has not affected his team's confidence.
"Most important for our team is mental toughness," said Kwon.
"We are prepared for it and we must not have any fear against them (Myanmar).
"We already know their weak points and we have to exploit that to our advantage," added the former defender.
Kwon will be facing a familiar face today when goes up against Myanmar coach Park Sung-hwa, both of whom were in their country's squad that took part in the 1980 AFC Asian Cup in Kuwait and have remained in close contact since hanging up their boots.
Having featured in every edition of the Suzuki Cup, Myanmar are favourites to repeat that feat.
Their record is in stark contrast to Brunei, who have not appeared or gone past the qualifying round since 1996 taking a break in 2010 because of the country's suspension by FIFA.
But with Kwon at their helm, Park isn't about to write off the visitors.
"He (Kwon) is a few years younger than me but we played together for Korea and I know him well," said the Myanmar coach.
"He is a good coach and I know that he always tries very hard to get the best from his teams that is his strong point.
"He has coached the national team in Brunei for a long time so he knows the team well and he also got a good result with their Under-21 team earlier this year (at the HBT) when they beat Myanmar in the semi-finals and won the tournament," he added.
The match kicks off at 6pm local time (7.30pm Brunei time) at the Youth Training Centre in Yangon.
The first match pits Cambodia against Timor Leste at 3pm local time.
Laos make up the other team in the five-country qualifiers, with the top two progressing to next month's main event.
Earlier yesterday, His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah, the Honorary President of the National Football Association of Brunei Darussalam, left for Myanmar. Present at the Brunei International Airport to bid farewell to HRH were Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Haji Hazair Haji Abdullah and other senior officials from the ministry.
Courtesy from Brunei Times