Monday, November 17, 2014


Riedl Swings Axe After Syria Loss

Indonesia's final friendly before heading to the ASEAN Football Federation Championship ended in a 2-0 loss at home to Syria which was played out in front of a crowd given as 500!

In response, coach Alfred Riedl has dropped some big names from the squad that flies to Vietnam. Out go Ahmad Bustomi and Bayu Gatra, joining other names which had previously been told they would not be needed; Irfan Bachdim, Hamkah Hamza, Dedi Hartono, Teguh Amirudin and Andritany Ardhiyasa.

The following players are packing their toothbrushes as I type this:

Goalkeepers : Kurnia Meiga, I Made Wirawan, Dian Agus Prasetyo

Defenders : Zulkifly Syukur, Supardi Nasir, Rizky Pora, M Roby, Achmad Jufriyanto, Victor Igbonefo, Fachrudin

Midfielders : Manahati Lestusen, Hariono, Raphael Maitimo, M Ridwan, Ramdani Lestaluhu, Firman Utina, Evan Dimas, Zulham Zamrun. Immanuel Wanggai

Strikers : Boaz Solossa, Sergio Van Dijk, Samsul Arif, Cristian Gonzales

One name that sticks out is Evan Dimas (Persebaya) who made his name with the Under 19s over the last 12 months but has yet to make his Indonesia Super League.  A strange one when you think Patrich Wanggai (T Team) and Titus Bonai (Persipura) have not been called up despite performing well at the 2011 SEA Games.

Indonesia went with a 4 3 2 1 against Syria with Suphanburi striker Sergio Van Dijk playing the lone striker with Boas, Ridwan and Zulham looking to get up in support. However it is difficult to see Riedl sticking with that formation if he decides not to use the naturalised striker and indeed when he was withdrawn on Saturday, Gonzales and Samsul were up top in a more traditional two.

Sergio though brings a physical presence and an aerial threat to the team while Gonzales, though much shorter, has the ability to disrupt defenders and Samsul is more comfortable with the ball at his feet. Interesting though that the coach saw Boas more as a support player rather than the main man the Persipura striker has been used to over the years.

But is the squad good enough to get past Philippines, Laos and hosts Vietnam? As always, the home team will be under immense pressure to perform in front of their fans. They won the trophy back in 2010 but have slipped up badly in the last couple of competitions.

Laos are a funny one. Little known beyond, and probably within, their own borders, they have punched above their weight in recent age group competitions and it will be interesting to see how their coach, for the second time, David Booth gets them to gel in the region's premier tournament. (Check out my interview with Booth back in 2010 on Jakarta Casual TV).

And then we have the Philippines. Considered a football nonentity up until 2010, young English coach Simon McMenemy came in and changed perceptions with a disciplined squad drawing heavily on naturalised players with experience, at one level or another, of playing in Europe.

It is a hoary old cliche but every competition must have a group of death to keep headline writers and 'in the know' social media addicts pumped up and feeling relevant. This time round the toughie would seem to be in Singapore where the four time winners and hosts come up against Thailand (three times winners) and Malaysia (2010 champions) plus one other.

Yep, a tough group but perhaps more interesting than actually tough. Singapore are entering a new era. They go into the competition with Raddy Avramovic who guided them to success in 2010 while several of the old guard have moved on.

The Thais? You never know what you are going to get with them. They should be favourites but you get the impression up there the clubs are not really fussed how the national team fares. When they step it up a gear then they should win everything on offer but the last few years, coinciding with the increased popularity of the Thai Premier League and club owners flexing their muscles, have seen them take the eye off the ball. Much depends on which Thailand is sent to Singapore.

Malaysia? In crisis if you believe the hype. The goals seem to have dried up for key performers like Norshahrul and Safee Sali but alot of work is still going on behind the scenes to improve Malaysian football and this year is seeing the fruits of that labour with players like Gary Steven Robbat getting their chance. But will they take it?

Many questions, there will be no answers until the 29 November when the group stage ends and I for one, even though I have little interest in international football ordinarily, can't bloody well wait!

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