Indonesia out to bury the ghost of finals past

Indonesia captain Boas Salossa (left) and fellow forward Lerby Eliandry training during the Suzuki Cup, where they seek their first title.
Indonesia captain Boas Salossa (left) and fellow forward Lerby Eliandry training during the Suzuki Cup, where they seek their first title.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

JAKARTA • Indonesia coach Alfred Riedl says his side will try their best to "make history" this week by winning the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time.

The Garudas square up against defending champions Thailand in the first leg of the final in Bogor, Indonesia tonight with rousing home support expected at the Pakansari Stadium, reported the tournament website.

"We are playing the No. 1 team in South-east Asia, so we know it is going to be very difficult but we want to make history and win this for the first time," said Riedl at a press conference yesterday.

This marks the fifth time Indonesia have made it to the final and success this week will bury the ghost of losing in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2010.

"We have the great advantage of playing in front of our wonderful fans and this will give us a huge lift," said the Indonesia coach.

Indonesia have surprised everyone as they entered the tournament having not played a competitive match since the last AFF Suzuki Cup in 2014.

"We had to make a lot of tactical changes and that has been the key that allowed us to play so well in the tournament," said Riedl. "But ultimately the key has been playing as a team, and our spirit has been incredible."

In Hanoi last week, Indonesia managed a memorable 4-3 win on aggregate after an extra-time 2-2 draw with Vietnam in the second leg of their semi-final at the My Dinh National Stadium.

And they have lost only one game in the tournament, their opening 4-2 defeat by Thailand.

"We absolutely came to win the tournament and show what we are capable of," said Riedl, who is now in his third spell as Indonesia coach, having previously coached them in 2010 and 2013.

Indonesia failed to advance from the group stages in 2012 and 2014 but they have displayed a resilience and never-say-die attitude that poses a threat to the ambitions of Thailand today and in the second leg in Bangkok on Saturday.

Thailand's coach Kiatisuk Senamuang admits his team will face their toughest match of the tournament tonight.

"It is the key match for us. We have great respect for the Indonesian side who will be very hard to beat in Bogor," he said.

The 30,000-capacity Pakansari Stadium will surely be full with an intimidating army of Indonesian supporters.

"We know how dangerous Indonesia can be, we have seen what they can do. They did so well to beat Vietnam in the semi-final," added the Thai coach, whose side boast five wins in as many matches in the tournament.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 14, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesia out to bury the ghost of finals past'. Print Edition | Subscribe