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Lao footballers have tough road ahead

Wednesday, December 2, 2009 , Posted by samakomlao at 11:25 PM

It's apparent this year’s SEA Games will be no walkover for any of the football teams, men’s or women’s, given the line-up in the draw. In the men’s draw there are just eight teams taking part because Brunei and the Philippines are not entering either a men’s or women’s team this year, according to the Asean Football Federation. In the first round stage defending champion Thailand has been drawn in Group A alongside Vietnam, Malaysia, Timor Leste and Cambodia.

Hosts Laos have been drawn in Group B along with Myanmar, Singapore and Indonesia. In the 2007 SEA Games, Laos achieved a goalless draw with Singapore before being soundly beaten 0-4 by Malaysia and then losing 1-2 to Vietnam. The Lao men’s football team will begin their campaign at this year’s SEA Games on Saturday when they face Myanmar, who took the silver medal at the 2007 SEA Games.

This match will take place on Saturday at 17:45 at the National Stadium. Other matches will pit Laos against Indonesia on December 7 and against Singapore on December 10. Both of these games will be played out at the Chao Anouvong Stadium, with the kick off at 17:45. Football experts predict that Thailand is the most likely choice for a semifinal berth in Group A.

This would be no surprise since they have taken the gold medal in men’s football for the last eight editions of the SEA Games since 1993. However, Laos is also a favourite for the semifinals from Group B because they have the home crowd advantage. The competition is tough this year but local fans are full of hope that Laos will make the semifinals stage, due to the strength of emotion pouring out from a million hearts.

There is no doubt the thunderous cheers of spectators are very important in boosting the players’ morale and confidence. Asean Football Federation records dating back to 1959 show Laos reached the semifinals in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, after other results went their way.

Myanmar took gold in the event after defeating Vietnam in the final. Thailand took the bronze medal after they beat Laos 5-2 in the third place play-off. At that time the games were known as the Southeast Asian Peninsula Games (SEAP Games). Since the name was changed to the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in 1977, Laos has never reached the semi-finals. It was not until the 2003 SEA Games that a Lao women’s team entered any international competition.

Their first steps into sporting water were hesitant and the team eventually withdrew because it was felt the players lacked the experience to compete in such a major event. Lao women finally made their SEA Games debut in 2007 in Thailand, when they reached the semi-finals on goal difference after a 2-2 draw against the Philippines, but lost to Vietnam 1-4, while the Philippines lost 0-10 to Vietnam.

In the semi-finals, Laos lost 0-8 to host Thailand, while in the bronze medal match they went down 0-5 to Myanmar. It’s anybody’s guess what the outcome of this year’s line-up will be for either men or women.

This is football, and everything depends on the ball getting past the keeper into the net and teams making the most of their chances. There’s no knowing the result until the final whistle blows.


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