For the first time in its history, the Indonesian national team has reached the round of 16 in the Asian Cup, a new achievement after four previous appearances. The streak began with the 1996 Asian Cup (in the United Arab Emirates), 2000 (in Lebanon), 2004 (in China) and most recently 2007 (in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam). Despite participating in four previous editions, Indonesia had not achieved satisfactory results, always being eliminated in the group stage.
This year, however, a draw between Oman and Kyrgyzstan gave Indonesia the final ticket as the third-highest-ranked team. Under the guidance of Shin Tae Yong, Indonesia finished ahead of fifth-placed Oman. With three points from three matches, Indonesia joined Jordan, Palestine and Syria as the other third-placed teams in the Asian Cup and were the last team to qualify for the Round of 16.
Youth Power Supreme
The matches, held from January 12 to February 10, 2024, in Qatar, put Indonesia in the spotlight as the country fielded its youngest team with an average age of 24.33 years. Many doubted Indonesia's ability with such a young squad. Only two players are over the age of 30, that is Jordi Amat (31) and Marc Klok (30). However, the presence of promising young talent from Indonesia could be a major surprise at the 2023 Asian Cup.
As well as gaining experience on the pitch in Qatar, the Indonesian national team have also managed to progress by seizing the opportunity to reach the Round of 16. This is a remarkable achievement considering that the last time the Indonesian national team appeared at the Asian Cup was in 2007.
Underdogs on the rise
As well as having the youngest squad, Indonesia are the second-lowest ranked team in the FIFA Asian Cup Ranking. Indonesia's 146th position is just one place ahead of Hong Kong, who are ranked 150th. This ranking also indicates that Indonesia are the lowest ranked team to have successfully reached the Round of 16 at the 2023 Asian Cup.
In this regard, Indonesia coach Shin Tae Yong (STY) stressed that his team's performance at the 2023 Asian Cup in Qatar cannot be measured solely by the FIFA ranking.
"I have coached one of the weakest teams among the 24 teams in this tournament. Indonesia are ranked 146th, but our performance did not match our ranking," said coach Shin Tae-yong, retrieved from the official AFC website.
On the other hand, some of the highest ranked teams in the FIFA world failed to qualify for the last 16 of the Asian Cup, namely Oman (74th), China (79th), Vietnam (94th) and Kyrgyzstan (98th).
Southeast Asian teams in the Asian Cup Round of 16
Before Indonesia strengthened their position, Thailand had already secured their place in the Asian Cup Round of 16. Both countries represented outstanding performances from ASEAN as they advanced to be among the four countries competing at the 2023 Asian Cup. Thailand earned their ticket to the Round of 16 as runners-up in Group F, recording one win and two draws in the group stage.
However, Malaysia and Vietnam, two other ASEAN representatives, were less fortunate as they were knocked out in the group stage. Vietnam finished bottom of Group D, below Indonesia, after suffering three defeats. Meanwhile, Malaysia's journey to the 2023 Asian Cup came to an end after a 1-0 defeat to Bahrain. This is the second defeat for the Malaysian national team in Group E of the Asian Cup 2023, as they also lost 4-0 to Jordan in their previous match.
Thailand's next match will be against Uzbekistan in the Round of 16 on Tuesday (January 30). Meanwhile, the Indonesian national team will face tough opponents Australia tonight in the opening match of the Asian Cup Round of 16. The match is scheduled to kick off at 11.30am (GMT+0) on Sunday, January 28.