In the five editions of the AFF Suzuki Cup between 2007 and 2014, Myanmar won just one of their 15 matches and never once made it past the group stage.

But after a breakthrough tournament in 2016, where they made the semi-final, ultimately losing to eventual champions Thailand, they are approaching this year’s tournament with a renewed confidence that they can challenge the established powers in Southeast Asia.

With the AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Official Draw taking place next week, Myanmar’s goalkeeper Thiha Sithu has told that the White Angels fear no one and are confident of a good showing regardless of which other teams they are drawn against.

“If you want to become champions, you must dare to face any opponent,” the Shan United shot stopper said.

“In my opinion, I don’t think we have much difference among Southeast Asian teams. But we need to have unity and good teamwork to make surprise. Without unity and teamwork, we cannot succeed in this tournament.

“But I just want to see a good and fair mixture of teams in each group.”

Myanmar has been a nation on the rise in recent years, with improving performances at both club and national team level. The national U20 side qualified for the nation’s first ever FIFA tournament when they qualified for the 2015 FIFA U20 World Cup in New Zealand.

Following on from that, the senior national team, featuring a number of players from that U20 squad, fell just short of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup 2019, but in the process unearthed a number of future stars in the likes of Aung Thu and Kyaw Ko Ko, who now both play their club football in Thailand.

And at club level Yangon United finished top of Group G in the 2018 AFC Cup to qualify for the ASEAN Zone Semi Finals.

With the disappointment from missing the AFC Asian Cup 2019 still lingering, Sithu and his teammates are determined to learn from their mistakes and put in a better showing in the revamped AFF Suzuki Cup.

“We, as sportsmen, want to succeed whichever competition it is,” the 31-year-old said.

“We will correct the mistakes that we made in 2019 AFC Asian Cup (qualifying) and will make every possible effort to achieve something in the AFF Suzuki Cup.

“But we cannot prove it by words. We have to prove it by working. Each individual game is equally important for us. So, we need to prove it by our performance.”

For the first time in 2018, the AFF Suzuki Cup will see teams drawn in groups of five, in which they will play a round-robin tournament with two home and two away games, with the top two from each group advancing to the semi-finals.

Sithu is a fan of the new format, especially given it will see all teams playing at home in front of their own fans, which will provide a greater atmosphere and spectacle to the matches in the group stage.

“By playing home and away matches, the competition will attract more attentions of football loving people in the region. On the whole, I think the new format is good.”

The AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 Official Draw will be held on 2 May at the Hotel Mulia Senayan in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.