The AFF Championship will be held again this December. The tournament that determines the strongest national team in Southeast Asia will be held after being postponed last year due to Covid-19. Many fans feel enthusiastic about knowing how far their country will go and who will win the championship this year.
Vietnam will be the top contenders to win the AFF Championship this year after their success in going to the third phase of the 2022 World Cup qualification this year by defeating regional rivals, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. But Vietnam cannot underestimate them this time out, because they will learn from their losses and use those lessons to strengthen their team. One rival that Vietnam should keep an eye out for in the buildup for this year’s AFF Championship is Indonesia. The Timnas Garuda are reportedly drafting in European-based players as well as naturalizing foreign players of Indonesian descent to reinforce themselves for the upcoming tournament. This would make this year’s AFF Championship much harder to predict.
However, with so much optimism revolving around Indonesia, not many people know that the probability of them struggling is almost as likely as the probability of their success. This is because they will have a big disadvantage even before the tournament kicks off – they will probably be unable to deploy their best players come December. Why?
The biggest reason is that because the AFF Championship does not fall within the FIFA international matchday calendar. This means that clubs will be stricter in regards to allowing their players to report for national team duty. Even if this calendar issue is present since the infancy of the AFF Championship, this year will become the year where said issue will affect Indonesia the most. This is because in recent years, a lot of Indonesian players have gone abroad to further their careers.
If all the players playing their trade outside Southeast Asia are prohibited by their clubs to play in the AFF Championship, then Indonesia will be deprived of players with valuable experience playing in higher quality leagues. Even if nobody knows how much influence that they could exert to the squad or how good they will be whilst representing the Timnas Garuda, there’s already a hype surrounding the presence of foreign-based players within the Indonesia squad, so their absence would bring great disappointment to fans.
Three key players in recent times became the epitome of Indonesian players making it big in foreign soil, and their loss would be a huge disadvantage for Indonesia in the upcoming AFF Championship. The players in question are Asnawi Mangkualam Bahar, Egy Maulana Vikri, and Witan Sulaeman. Losing both Egy and Witan, who are currently playing in Slovakia and Poland respectively, will without a doubt affect Indonesia’s attacking prowess. With the skill, speed, the ability to read the game, decision making skills, and accuracy for both passing and shooting that the two players possess, they are probably the best wingers that Indonesia have right now.
However, while we cannot deny that both Witan and Egy are quality players, Indonesia still has many great wingers who can easily slip into their boots. Persipura Jayapura wonderkid Ramai Rumakiek and Irfan Jaya, who’s having a stellar season with a struggling PSS Sleman side, are good alternatives should both Witan and Egy are absent from this year’s AFF Championship.
It’s another story for replacing Asnawi, though.
Asnawi, who plays his football in the South Korean second tier with Ansan Greeners, has been the first-choice right-back ever since Shin Tae-yong assumed control of the national team. The PSM Makassar graduate has been considered one of Indonesia’s best players in recent times, and for good reason. He possesses great defending abilities within his area that are on par with more experienced players, as well as knowing well when to delay the game, when to tackle, when to commit a foul, and other essential skills that a defender must have.
Additionally, Asnawi’s attacking skills are just as potent as his defense. His acceleration and crossing from the right flank can pose danger to opposition defense, requiring opponents to foul him to stop him in his tracks.
Without the three of them, Indonesia will have to fight harder to achieve something from this year’s AFF Championship. The Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) have already set a tough goal for Tae-yong’s men – win their maiden AFF Championship title and end the “runners-up curse” that has been plaguing Indonesia since the start of the tournament. Indonesia have qualified for five AFF Championship finals but have failed to win any of them.
While everyone on the Indonesia national team is feeling the immense pressure to do well in the AFF Championship, the pressure on Tae-yong is undoubtedly the biggest, considering Indonesia’s wretched run of form that has continued into his reign. If he fails to meet the target set to him by the PSSI, there’s a good chance that Tae-yong will be sacked from his position.
With all the pressures and disadvantages that they have, it’ll be interesting to see how far Indonesia will go in this year’s AFF Championship. Will they shock their rivals and make a scene for themselves, or will they once again came up with nothing but disappointment for their fans? We’ll see how things unfold next month.