After a creditable debut in which they only lost 2-1 to the USA, Myanmar crumbled in the second-half for a second successive match, conceding four times after the interval of their final Group A match against the Junior All Whites having previously shipped six second-half goals in their penultimate fixture against Ukraine.
Myanmar took a 28th minute lead through Aung Thu only for Noah Billingsley to cancel out the Yadanarbon striker’s opener and draw New Zealand level with five minutes of the first-half to play.
Monty Patterson turned the tide in favour of the hosts with New Zealand’s second two minutes after the interval before late goals from Joel Stevens (78th), Sam Brotherton (81st) and Clayton Lewis (89th) saw Myanmar once again on the receiving end of a heavy defeat.
“I’m both very disappointed and disheartened, but you can’t expect to win any matches by playing the way we did,” said Myanmar coach Gerd Zeise.
“Our defence was a disaster – I saw so many mistakes. We simply weren’t ready for a big stage like the World Cup.
“The only way we could have survived was if every single member of the team played to the absolute best of their abilities, and unfortunately that wasn’t the case today.”
Zeise made two changes from the starting 11 from the Ukraine match, one of which he was compelled to do on account of Thiha Htet Aung’s suspension following his red card for deliberate handball 74 minutes into the heavy defeat to the Eastern Europeans.
The second change saw Than Paing start on the bench with the forward and his suspended Yangon United team-mate replaced with the defensive duo of Naing Lin Tun and Nam Wai Min, who also plays his club football with three-time Myanmar National League champions Yangon United.
Looking to bounce back from the mauling at the hands of Ukraine, Myanmar dominated the early exchanges and silenced the majority of the fans at the 35,000-capacity Wellington Regional Stadium when they took a 28th minute lead when Aung Thu skipped past Brock Messenger before curling the ball sweetly past Nikola Tzanev in the New Zealand goal.
However, with five minutes of the half remaining New Zealand level the match with Billingsley tapping home from six yards out after being set up by Wanderers SC team-mate Deklan Wynne’s cross from the left as the two sides went into the break on an even keel.
Just two minutes after the restart, the home side took the lead when a well-work move that started with Alex Rufer’s audacious back-heel and culminated in Patterson turning home Billingsley’s cross-shot.
Myanmar were unable to find a way back into the game as they were up against a side who needed to boost their goal differential to have any chance of making it to the Round of 16 as the best third-place finisher and the tournament hosts helped their cause with three goals in the final 12 minutes.
Joel Stevens, a 77th minute substitute, made it 3-1 just a minute after replacing defender Messenger and after Brotherton headed home from a corner kick three minutes later Myanmar’s misery was complete with one minute remaining when goalkeeper Myo Min Latt failed to deal with Wynne’s cross, allowing Lewis an easy finish for the fifth goal that could prove crucial in keeping the hosts in the tournament.
“I’m incredibly proud of my team. There was enormous pressure on those young lads today and they dealt with it superbly,” said New Zealand coach Darren Beazely.
“We put in a strong and very dominant performance in the second half. I’ve got an incredibly great bunch of guys in this side who all work extremely hard. Hopefully we can make history and get out of the group.
“At the very least, we should have done enough for our goal difference today to give ourselves a good chance of reaching the last 16. We’ll definitely be sitting nervously in front of the television tomorrow.”
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