Despite needing only a draw against Singapore to progress into the semi-finals of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, Indonesia Under-23 coach Aji Santoso wants his side to go for all three points.
The stage is set for a vital showdown between Singapore and Indonesia on Thursday at Jalan Besar Stadium as the two teams battle it out for the final spot in the semi-finals.
Although both sides are currently on six points each, a superior goal difference means the Indonesians hold the edge going into the final Group A encounter.
A draw is enough to see them set up a tantalising semi-final clash against Thailand, while nothing less than a win will do for Singapore.
Despite that, Indonesia coach Aji Santoso emphasised that they should not take any chances, and urged them not just to settle for a draw.
“A draw is enough for Indonesia to go to the semi-finals but I don’t want us to think about that,” he told FourFourTwo before his side’s final pre-match training.
“I want to win against Singapore tomorrow.”
After a poor start to their 2015 SEA Games campaign which saw them fall to a 4-2 defeat against Myanmar, the Garuda Muda are gradually finding their groove – scoring eight goals in their last two matches to dispatch Cambodia and Philippines without breaking sweat.
Star man Evan Dimas has already struck three times and Santoso believes his side have done well thus far to keep focused on their objective of qualifying amidst trouble back home.
The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) had been suspended by world governing body FIFA late last month due to government interference.
And while the Under-23 side was allowed to continue their participation in the SEA Games, the senior team has been banned from competing in the joint 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifiers kicking off this week.
“I think the players had still been confused about the football situation in our country in our first game [the loss to Myanmar] so they couldn’t concentrate,” said former national player Santoso.
“The coaches and I told them not to think about the case and that it was more important that we perform in the SEA Games first.
From the second match [against Cambodia], I saw their mentality returning. Then by the third match [against Philippines], I realised that they had started coping very well.”
Coming up against a Singapore side loaded with attacking talents, Santoso nevertheless acknowledged that a tough 90 minutes lay in store for Indonesia despite remaining cofident.
“I know Singapore is a strong team with quality players like Faris Ramli and Sahil Suhaimi, but I told them [my men] already that they have to play around that,” said the 45-year-old.
“But I think we have little advantage because their regular left-back [Shakir Hamzah] cannot play. I think he’s a good player and I want us to take advantage of that and make it to the next round.”
Shakir is suspended after picking up his second caution of the tournament against Cambodia on Monday, with the less-experienced Ho Wai Loon expected to deputise for him.
Image credit: Kenneth Tan/FourFourTwo