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Pune FC and Nay Pyi Taw excited about first-ever AFC Cup campaign

AFC Cup - Pre-Match PC: Pune FC v Nay Pyi Taw FC

AFC Cup - Pre-Match PC: Pune FC v Nay Pyi Taw FC

Pune FC begins its maiden AFC Cup campaign hosting Myanmar’s Nay Pyi Taw FC in a Round 1 encounter at the Shree Shivchhatrapati Sports Complex, Balewadi in Pune on Wednesday.

The Group H clash on the morrow sees a face-off between two teams who will be playing for the very first time in Asia’s second-level competition and either side hopes to kick off the campaign with a win.

Like Pune FC, the visitors also qualified for the AFC Cup after finishing runners-up in the league during the previous season.

Coached by former Myanmar international Myo Hlaing Win, Nay Pyi Taw FC plies it trade in the Myanmar National League (MNL) and currently occupy third place in the standings after four rounds. After losing their season opener, NPT have done well to notch three consecutive wins so far.

Speaking at the pre-match Press Conference held at the venue of tomorrow’s match, Win said: “We have begun our domestic season well. We have played four games and have 3 wins and a loss so far and have a fully fit squad.”

Talking about the hosts, he further added, “Pune FC come into the game after playing the Champions League play-off. We have seen their videos on the internet and know they are one of the toughest team in our group.”

Formed in 2010, Nay Pyi Taw FC was included directly into the MNL which expanded from eight to eleven teams the same year. They finished tenth in their first season and were runners-up in the MFF Cup in 2011.

In the following two seasons, they finished sixth (2011) and seventh (2012) before finishing as runners-up last year (2013) behind eventual champions Yangon United.

Excited about their first-ever continental campaign, Nay Pyi Taw skipper and goalkeeper Van Lar Hrual said, “We are happy to arrive in India. We are currently third in our league and will not be pushovers. We want to give a good fight to Pune FC.”

Currently, Pune FC are midway through their league campaign and are confident going into the big game having logged a couple of positive results at home.

However, Pune FC Coach Mike Snoei was cautious ahead of the game and said, “The home games in the tournament are very important. We should make the most of it otherwise we will be under pressure going into the away games.”

Stand-in skipper Douhou Pierre echoed the same sentiment, “This is an international game, not just an I-League game. We need to be at our best especially at home and can’t take the opponents lightly.”

Sitting third in the I-League table, Pune FC recently ended their winless streak with a dominating 2-0 win over Mohammedan Sporting last week.

Having failed to make past the AFC Champions League Play-Offs, Coach Mike Snoei expects a good performance from the team.

He further added, “We have a few players missing like Anas (Edathodika) and Arata (Izumi). However, the team must step up and give it all. In the meantime, we must not take pressure and try to enjoy these games.”

The match kicks off at 18.30 IST on Wednesday.