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Surreal scenes as hosts cheer visitors Laos

By Ossian Shine

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Myanmar's soccer team had to contend with a tenacious Laotian attack, and their own jeering fans, as they ground out a goalless draw to secure their qualification for next month's Asean Football Federation Cup.

In stifling Yangon heat the Myanmar team collected the point they needed to secure a berth in the November 24-December 22 tournament, but won over few fans with their defensive performance.

"They supported us well during the tournament but maybe the fans were angry because we didn't attack at the end," Myanmar coach Park Sung-hwa told reporters.

"We understand that the fans wanted us to win but in the end, we got a result that suited us."

In a surreal twist, Laos's Japanese coach Kukichi Kimura thanked his opposition's fans for their vocal backing.

"I must thank the Myanmar fans... for supporting us at the end. They are very good fans who like attacking football so I appreciate their support and thank them very much for cheering for us."

Laos's disappointment was only short-lived, however, as Brunei's surprise 2-1 over East Timor later on Sunday saw the Laotians clinch qualification after all.

"It was a big surprise because for us to go through, East Timor had to lose and Brunei did not have much to play for because they had already been eliminated," Laos team manager Kei Homma said.

"But Brunei played very well and when they took a 1-0 lead, our players started to cheer for them. We ended up watching the whole game and it was very nervous for us right at the end when Brunei were leading 2-1 and East Timor hit the post.

"Now we can think about how we will prepare to play in the next round."

The AFF Suzuki Cup, held every two years, features eight teams from South-East Asia.

Thailand will host one group including Vietnam, Philippines and Myanmar; while Malaysia will host the second group featuring Indonesia, Singapore and Laos.

(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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