Sunday, July 15, 2007


Indonesia v Saudi Arabia 1-2

Ivan Kolev celebrated his 50th birthday yesterday and his players did him proud. They battled for every ball and ran their hearts out on the expansive Bung Karno pitch but ultmately it was to no avail. 22 legs grew heavy, sapped by the effort they had shown, and as they tired so the Arabs controlled the game more. A winner was as inevitable as it was heartbreaking and as the Indonesian players sunk to the ground it was a sign that they had given their all and they had nothing left in the tank. It was a wonderfully hard working display by the hosts who fought ferociously for every 50/50 ball and more. They wouldn't allow the technically superior Saudis time on the ball as the challenges flew in thick and fast.

The stats though will tell a different story. Indonesia lost. Time and time again Indonesia's wide men found themselves in good positions only to waste the final ball or find not enough support for them in the box.

Much had been made of the passionate Indonesian support and this was evident more than an hour before kick off. After Saudi took the lead things went quiet for a while and you could almost hear the small visiting contingent but Elie Aiboy soon equalised and the roar round the ground pretty much continued to that final heartbeaking header in injury time.

Kolev and his players can feel pride in their performance. At the same time fitness levels need to be looked at. A match at this level lasts 90 minutes plus injury time and the way the Indonesians faded in the last quarter must be a cause for concern. But with South Korea coming up on Wednesday the hosts showed they are nobody's pushover. What they need is more top class friendlies, not against the likes of Hong Kong and some Liberian fantasy XI, but the cream of Asian football.

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