Wondering about Singapore's group opponents at the SEA Games? Teng Kiat gives the lowdown on what to expect from the Young Lions' Group A rivals...
The Garuda Muda are considered by many to be the strongest opponent in Group A for Singapore, with both teams likely to be pleased to have avoided the trio of Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. They will expect to make the semi-finals at least. Interestingly, Singapore beat them to the bronze in 1993, the last time the Games was held here.
Former Indonesian international defender Aji Santoso started his coaching career in 2005 with the national Under-17s. He then moved on to manage a string of lower-tier club sides and a couple of top-flight teams, albeit without much success.
He returned to the Timnas set-up in 2011 as U23 assistant coach and was briefly named caretaker manager of the senior team in 2012 following the sacking of Wim Rijsbergen. Santoso oversaw their disastrous 10-0 walloping by Bahrain in their final 2014 World Cup qualifier - their heaviest-ever loss.
The 45-year-old returned to the U23s and has worked with this current team since January last year.
The Indonesians first won the competition in 1987 on home soil in Jakarta and delivered a second triumph in 1991 in Manila. They also finished second in 1979 and 1997 - both times in Jakarta as well. Before the tournament had a U23 cap in 2001, they also collected three third-place and fourth-place finishes each.
Two more fourth-placings were the furthest they managed from 2001 onwards, until they reached the final in the preceding two editions. Unfortunately, they lost at home - again - to Malaysia after extra time in 2011 and then Thailand in 2013. This recent record may just instill an extra dose of self-belief in Santoso’s charges that they can go all the way this time.
Santoso has got his team playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation in an offensive style characterised by quick passing, though they sometime employ a 4-1-4-1 as well. They retain a compact shape that makes it hard for opponents to break them down, which also facilitates their short passing style.
Notable friendly results this year include a 1-1 draw with Syria and two 1-0 victories over Malaysia. They have also scored 16 goals in their last four sparring matches against local sides.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Speed is a notable component of this team as they like to break forward at pace to overwhelm the opposition. With some of the players having been team-mates since U19 level, there is also a certain level of understanding in the team.
Where they can be vulnerable is at the back, with problems particularly in dealing with long balls over the top. The players also suffer from lack of concentration at times and such lapses could turn out to be costly.
Upfront, the team will suffer from the absence of Yohanes Ferinando Pahabol. The experienced Persipura Jayapura forward withdrew from the team six days before the start of their first game and Indonesia will struggle for goals. The other two strikers, Muchlis Hadi Ning Syaifulloh, who’s only 18, and Yandi Munawar, are not as clinical yet.
Manahati Lestusen: The team captain is one of the most integral components in the side and has proven his pedigree despite his young age. Only 21, Lestusen has already played in Europe with Belgian second-division club Vise and was also on loan at Uruguayan top-flight outfit Penarol for a brief period before that. He might be relatively small in stature, but the combative midfield dynamo does an excellent job screening the defence, which can be suspect at times. Lestusen has already been capped at senior international level as well - a testament to his ability.
Evan Dimas: Already a stalwart at U17 and U19 level, the midfield playmaker actually made his debut for the senior side BEFORE he did likewise for the U23s and it wasn’t too shabby - a goal and an assist in the AFF Suzuki Cup last year as Indonesia routed Laos 5-1. Often termed a wonderkid back home, Dimas’s talent is undoubted and he will be expected to be the main creative force at the Games for the team. The 20-year-old models his game on Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta and will have the chance to establish his growing reputation with a solid tournament here.
Yandi Munawar: Without Pahabol, Indonesia will turn to Munawar for the goals. The 23-year-old came through the U17 and U19 ranks, while at club level he played two seasons in Belgium with Vise. A return to his homeland to play for Arema Cronus saw him loaned out to Brisbane Roar’s youth side and he only made his top-flight debut earlier this year for Persib Bandung. He scored in that game to get off to an auspicious start and will hope better things follow in Singapore. Munawar, who has three goals in 10 U23 appearances, has also set a gold-medal target in his second and last Games.
U23 SEA Games final squad
Muhammad Natshir (age 22) - Persib Bandung
Teguh Amiruddin (age 21) - Barito Putera
Syaiful Cahya (age 22) - Persija Jakarta
Hansamu Yama (age 20) - Barito Putera
Abduh Lestaluhu (age 21) - Persija Jakarta
Vava Mario Yagalo (age 22) - Persija Jakarta
Zalnando (age 18) - Sriwijaya FC
Agung Prasetyo (age 22) - PSM Makassar
Manahati Lestusen (captain) (age 21) - Barito Putera
Adam Alis Setyano (age 21) - Persija Jakarta
Paulo Sitanggang (age 19) - Barito Putera
Evan Dimas (vice-captain) (age 20) - Persenyalla Surabaya
Ahmad Noviandani (age 19) - Anus FC
Wawan Febrianto (age 21) - Persipasi Bandung Raya
Zulfiandi (age 19) - Persenyalla Surabaya
Muhammad Hargianto (age 18) - Persenyalla Surabaya
Ilham Armaiyn (age 19) - Persenyalla Surabaya
Yandi Munawar (age 23) - Persib Bandung
Muchlis Hadi Ning Syaifulloh (age 18) - PSM Makassar
Special thanks to Eric Noveanto for his assistance with this segment.
Photo: Football Association of Singapore