World Cup Qualifying Southeast Asia

Shin Tae-yong Plots Youthful Revolution

With the Indonesia national team embarking on their final set of qualifying matches for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in the United Arab Emirates this June, head coach Shin Tae-yong prepares for his first competitive game after his appointment more than a year ago. The South Korean’s squad selection for the Timnas Garuda‘s final three matches might raise a few eyebrows as it is dominated by the youth, with a good chunk of them having yet to make their debut for the Indonesia senior national team.

Indonesia’s elimination from the World Cup qualifiers was confirmed before Tae-yong’s appointment in December 2019. The Timnas Garuda had lost all five of their qualifying matches so far. Simon McMenemy oversaw four of those defeats and caretaker head coach Yeyen Tumena oversaw a 2-0 defeat for Indonesia away at Malaysia’s Bukit Jalil National Stadium that killed off Indonesia’s World Cup chances.

However, with the last-placed team of each group in Asia’s World Cup qualifiers being guaranteed a spot in a set of play-off matches to determine qualification into the upcoming 2023 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, Indonesia can look to regroup and rebuild themselves for that tournament.

With nothing to lose from the World Cup qualifiers, Tae-yong went to work in drafting his squad from scratch. He seeks to develop Indonesia’s pool of young talent into units capable of pushing for Asian Cup qualification and with the postponement of the FIFA U-20 World Cup due to the pandemic (with Indonesia acting as the hosts of said tournament), Tae-yong saw the final three matches of Indonesia’s World Cup qualifiers as the perfect stage to blood the Timnas Garuda‘s youth.

In the squad that Tae-yong has prepared for the three matches, there were no usual faces in Stefano Lilipaly, Irfan Bachdim, Riko Simanjuntak, Beto Goncalves, Ilija Spasojevic, Osas Saha, and Yanto Basna, with PT Prachuap man Yanto being sidelined with an injury.

The newly-naturalized Marc Klok, who was expected to become Indonesia’s midfield general in the three matches, was also omitted from the squad as he had to accompany his wife who had just given birth.

This leaves Evan Dimas as the only player with notable national team experience within the squad, with 25 caps to his name. The likes of Osvaldo Haay and Egy Maulana Vikri, who received call-ups to the national team in recent times, were also included, and so does Ryuji Utomo.

Despite his decent showing with Persija Jakarta, PTT Rayong, and Penang FC, Ryuji only received 1 cap for the Timnas Garuda and the underrated defender’s call-up would surely provide some experience to Indonesia’s youthful back-line.

Highly-rated Asnawi Mangkualam, who had been impressive for Ansan Greeners in the South Korean 2nd tier, was also drafted into the national team by Tae-yong, alongside two other foreign-based players, Witan Sulaeman (FK Radnik Sudurlica, Serbia) and Syahrian Abimanyu (Newcastle Jets, Australia).

With a number of young players impressing in the recently-concluded 2021 Menpora Cup, Tae-yong took the opportunity to include them within the national team setup to develop them further into future world-beaters.

Pratama Arhan (PSIS Semarang), Braif Fatari (Persija Jakarta) and Saddam Gaffar (PS Sleman) were included in the senior national team setup after impressing in the Menpora Cup, alongside PSM Makassar’s Yakob Sayuri. Although taking everyone by storm in the Menpora Cup, Sayuri’s flashes of brilliance were already on show during PSM’s 2020 AFC Cup campaign.

Indonesia’s last two friendly matches – against Afghanistan and Oman respectively – did end in two defeats, 3-2 at the hands of the Afghans and 3-1 at the hands of the Omani, a sign that the team are still taking an effort to gel together. And with Indonesia’s opponents still having their heavy hitters despite recent turmoils, things are looking tough for the Timnas Garuda.

Despite losing J.League 1 duo Theerathon Bunmathan and Chanathip Songkrasin as well as Teerasil Dangda, Thailand still have a decent squad with the likes of Supachok Sarachat, Thitiphan Puangchan, and the impressive Nattawut Suksum on standby.

The same can be said for Vietnam, who despite losing Do Hung Dung and Dang Van Lam, still has the likes of Nguyen Quang Hai and Nguyen Tien Linh, while the Hoang Anh Gia Lai duo of Nguyen Cong Phuong and Nguyen Van Toan are in red-hot form.

Hosts UAE still has Ali Mabkhout, their all-time top scorer, who scored a hat-trick as the UAE crushed Jordan 5-1 in their most recent friendly.

With the odds firmly stacked against Indonesia, things may seem bleak for them in their upcoming three matches. However, with pretty much nothing to play for apart for grabbing that AFC Asian Cup qualifiers ticket, Tae-yong has the freedom to establish strong foundations for the future. With the long-term as his final goal, Tae-yong is willing to send his youngsters into a baptism of fire in hopes of creating a stronger Indonesia team for later tournaments.

The revolution of youth is well and truly under way.