The Jakarta Post
Amid a deteriorating state of affairs in Indonesian soccer as the sport was tainted with wide-scale match-fixing practices as of late, the Young Garuda squad has become the light at the end of a long tunnel, trashing defending champion Thailand with a 2-1 victory to steal the Asian Football Federation (AFF) cup in Cambodia on Tuesday night.
Indra Sjafri’s team shook off any doubts about a lack of preparation after the team had only begun to get in shape for the competition in early January.
The road to victory was not an easy one for Indonesia, as Thailand seized control in the first half of the match, frequently penetrating Indonesia’s defense.
The Thais kept most of their opponents locked in their half of the field, rarely giving them a chance to send the ball across the middle line.
The Indonesians briefly freed themselves from the stranglehold when Asnawi Bahar brought the ball into the Thai penalty box before passing it to Witan Sulaeman in the 33rd minute. Unfortunately, Witan’s shot at the goal proved no match for Thailand’s keeper Korraphat Narrechan.
Indonesia’s ace player Marinus Wanewar found himself heavily surrounded during the first half, rendering him rather unproductive.
Witan got another chance to scare the Thais in minute 38 when the 17-year-old took aim for the opponent’s goal, but the ball landed perfectly in Korraphat’s embrace.
The match turned intense after Thailand took the lead with captain Saringkan Promsupa ripping the net behind Awan Setho Raharjo through a header in the 56th.
Thai’s joy lasted for a minute until Sani Riski’s ball shot from outside the penalty box bounced off a Thai defense player, changing its trajectory to fool Korraphat and level the score.
The country’s young guns allowed coach Indra Sjafri to breathe more freely by achieving a 2-1 lead with Osvaldo Ardiles Haay’s header after a perfect assist from Muhamad Luthfi Kamal Baharsyah’s free kick.
Indonesia attempted to double the lead after a one-two pass by Firza Andika and Marinus, which created an opportunity for Firza to pass an assist to Osvaldo waiting inside the Thai penalty box. Alas, the pass was intercepted by Korraphat.
A one-man-down Indonesian side held its nerve after Bagas Adi was sent off with a red card by referee Nguyen Hien Triet of Vietnam in minute 88.
The last five minutes proved a thrill for the Indonesians, as almost all Thai players went forward in an all-out bid to level the game. Fortunately, the team sustained the score to prove its mettle against the defending champion.
Commenting on his goal that lead Indonesia to victory, Osvaldo, who plays for Persebaya Surabaya in the country’s Liga 1, said he was happy for the chance to score a goal in the final, but he humbly noted that it had been a team effort.
“I thank the supporters, who have come all the way here to watch the game and also the supporters back home,” he said after the match.
Praise also come from Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, who had gone to Cambodia to see his young guns in the final. Imam said the team had played bravely and exceeded his expectations. The minister prepared
Rp 2.1 billion (US$150,087) in a cash reward for the team.
Coach Indra Sjafri said the result was a dream come true.
“Praise the Lord, who has granted our prayer and hard works. I hope we can produce the same result in future tournaments,” he said.
This achievement marks the second AFF Cup title for coach Indra Sjafri, as he had ushered the U-19 team to the trophy in 2013.
Vietnam claimed third place after stunning host Cambodia 1-0.