Southeast Asia Asia

Seven Star Performance from Indonesia Earns Garuda Asian Cup Ticket

For the first time since 2007, Indonesia have qualified for the AFC Asian Cup for 2023 after a superb performance in their final qualifying third round match. Taking on Nepal at the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium in Kuwait, Indonesia utterly demolished their opponents 7-0 to qualify as one of the best five group runners-up.

With the Philippines losing 4-0 at the hands of Palestine over in Group B and Group A rivals Kuwait succumbing to a heavy 3-0 defeat at the hands of Jordan, Indonesia knew that their Asian Cup fate lies in their very own hands. The Timnas Garuda would only have to beat already-eliminated minnows Nepal to assure a spot in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.

With the match barely clocking six minutes, Indonesia already showed their intentions as they took an early lead. A superb cross from Asnawi Mangkualam was met with a header by Dimas Drajad, leaving Nepal goalkeeper Deep Karki utterly beaten.

Playing without their senior players such as Persik Kediri’s Rohit Chand and SC East Bengal’s Ananta Tamang due to their conflict with head coach Abdullah Al-Mutairi, Nepal were completely outmatched by Indonesia. Things gone from bad to worse for the South Asians in the 33rd minute after Suman Aryal was shown a second yellow card due to a bad foul on Asnawi.

Ten minutes later Indonesia doubled their lead, an excellent teamwork between Asnawi and Dimas allowed Witan Sulaeman all the time and space he needed to outsmart Deep with his shot.

The floodgates were well and truly opened in the second half. Fachrudin Aryanto made it 3-0 in the 54th minute, before Saddil Ramdani made it 4-0 only one minute later.

With their hopes of salvaging something from this tie dwindling in each passing minute, Nepal grew desperate in stopping Indonesia from adding more to their goals tally. Things got heated up in the 72nd minute after Bikash Tamang had fouled Asnawi, prompting the Indonesian players to angrily confront their Nepali counterparts. Whilst the other players were trying to defuse the situation, Nepal captain Pujan Uperkoti was caught on camera punching Saddil on the back of the head, causing the Sabah FC player to angrily confront him. Both Saddil and Pujan were booked by the referee for their actions.

Eight minutes after the incident, Indonesia pulled themselves further from their opponents, with Elkan Baggott unleashing a thunderbolt from distance to make it 5-0. Witan completed his brace in the 81st minute to make it 6-0, before Marselino Ferdinan added the cherry on top of a sweet Indonesian victory with the Timnas Garuda‘s seventh of the night in the 90th minute.

The huge win meant that Indonesia finished second in the best runners-up table behind Group F’s Kyrgyzstan and above ASEAN rivals Malaysia (Group E) and Thailand (Group C), with the Philippines being the unfortunate group runners-up failing to qualify for next year’s Asian Cup. Shin Tae-yong’s men became the lowest-ranked nation to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup, being 159th on the latest FIFA rankings, while their 7-0 thrashing of Nepal was the biggest recorded win of the qualifying third round.

Indonesia’s qualification, along with successes for Malaysia and Thailand, meant that Southeast Asia will have four representatives in the upcoming Asian Cup, following Vietnam’s earlier qualification as one of the teams advancing to the third round of the AFC’s World Cup qualifiers. It is also the first time since 2007 that Southeast Asia had that many representatives in Asia’s premier national team cup competition.