Little Laos ready to take it to Malaysia and co.

For too long, Laos have been minnows in this region but if recent results – including Southeast Asian age-group tournaments – are anything to go by, it may only be a matter of time before the Thim Xad give their neighbours a run for their money.

Technical director-turned-coach Steve Darby praised the Laos Football Federation (LFF) for their receptiveness towards new ideas, but admits he’s frustrated government policies don’t allow the likes of Ligue 1 player Billy Ketkeophomphone and the Australian-born Kaz Patafta to don the Laotian colours.

Only five months have passed since Darby took charge as technical director of Laos before a lack of resources led to him being installed as national coach. Extremely familiar with the region, the former Thailand technical director and Australian coaching and development officer is plotting a win against Myanmar in next week’s World Cup qualifier.

Darby concedes South Korea, Kuwait and Lebanon are in a class of their own in Group G, but believes Myanmar are beatable. He is also aiming to further dent Malaysia's pride in a friendly against Ong Kim Swee's side on Thursday. Malaysia are without a win in 2015 and are still licking their wounds from that 10-0 mauling by United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the World Cup qualifiers in September.

Darby took time out from his preparations to chat with FourFourTwo.

How does the future look for Laos football?

Our aim in Laos is to "close the gap" at all levels of national teams. Firstly, on our Southeast Asian neighbours – who have massive populations and budgets compared to Laos – and then to the next level. It seems to be working, we were fourth at the Asean Football Federation (AFF) under-16s, third at the AFF under-19s and at national team, we have been getting wins, draws and only narrow defeats ... with the exception of the South Korea encounter of course (an 8-0 loss).

What are the challenges you face in Laos?

Members of the Laos national team in training