EXCLUSIVE: Myanmar manager Park Sung Hwa remains hopeful despite selection dilemma

Myanmar national team manager Park Saung Hwa speaks to Goal.com about Myanmar's difficulties, chances and strengths for the upcoming Suzuki Cup in three weeks time
Former South Korea U-20 manager Park Sung Hwa is renowned for leading his teams, the 2002 and 2004 AFC Youth Champions to the 2003 and 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships.

After becoming manager of the Myanmar’s national team, Park has worked hard to further encourage Myanmar’s football development. However, he still faces several issues before the AFF Suzuki Cup, and speaks to Goal.com regarding his team’s chances and problems.

Goal.com: Myanmar qualified top of their group for the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 qualifiers. As you are preparing for the Finals, what do you think of your preparations?

Park Sung Hwa: For me I think I can’t get enough times for training sessions. The local League Cup finished on October 31st. Myanmar national team training started on November 5 because League Cup champions Ayeyawady United celebrated in their home town. We have four players in this club.  KBZ [Kanbawza] FC [League Cup runners-up] players joined on November 3. So we get two weeks for training. That is my first problem. Vietnam and Thailand have played many friendly matches but for me only two friendly matches with J-league 2 club [Fagiano Okayama]. Only two weeks isn’t enough to get our best form.

Goal.com: Myanmar has been drawn into the ‘group of death’ in AFF Suzuki Cup 2012. Host Thailand and Vietnam are the strongest team in Southeast Asia, while Philippines have improved. All opponents are stronger than Myanmar. So do you believe Myanmar can reach the semi-finals?

Park: Sure, Group A is a tough group for Myanmar. Vietnamese players are quick and skillful, Thailand too. When we played in the qualifiers, I wanted only to be group runners-up, not group winners. My opinion is that group B is easier to advance to the semi-finals. Vietnam have played a friendly match with Malaysia. So Vietnam team preparation is great. Thailand are the host country so they have home advantage and they too have many talented players. Another side, Philippines, aren’t favourites in group A but they are a quickly developing country in football. So we will be struggling to reach the semi-finals. My first goal is to reach the semi-finals. But we’ll be primarily concentrating on one match at a time.

Goal.com:  You released your list of 25 players on October 31st but have since made changes; why? Do you have any problems within the team?

Park: The biggest problem for me is that many players have been injured. Kyaw Ko Ko, Yan Aung Win, Kyaw Zeyar Win, Yan Paing and Aung Thike were injured in the National League. They were my first team selections, and their injuries weakened Myanmar. I am always facing headaches about that. So urgently we have called up Hantharwady United midfielder Aung Myint Tun and KBZ striker M.A. Naing. I will release my final squad list on November 20.

Goal.com:  In the AFF Suzuki Cup 2010 edition, Myanmar lost 7-1 to Vietnam. Myanmar will again meet Vietnam in the opening match. So what are your preparations for this match?

Park: The first match will be a struggle, but we will try hard. Five important players are out of the squad because of injuries. Back-up players need experience. Now, I’m watching out for Vietnam’s tactics. After finishing our friendly matches, there will be more detailed discussions. In last year’s competition, Myanmar lost two games and had one draw, and then Myanmar ended up at the bottom of the group table. But now our players have fighting spirit. All of our players are excited to win the opening match. So I believe my players they will do their best and will get a ticket to the semi-finals.

Goal.com:  In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Myanmar’s national team?

Park: In my opinion, our fighting spirit is our best strength and if five star players are not injured we can get one ticket for the semi-finals. But now we’ll be trying hard even though hope has decreased slightly. But you know in football anything can happen. We will be fighting till the end for 60 million people. Our team is still weak defensively and offensively. So I am still trying to improve our performance on both ends.