Indonesia’s Sergio van Dijk, center, tries to get through Vietnam’s Le Phuoc Tu, right, and Nguyen Xuan Thanh during their AFF Suzuki 2014 Cup match. (AFP Photo)

PSSI Sets Sights High After Bruising 2014

BY :PUTRA PERMATA TEGAR

JANUARY 05, 2015

Indonesia’s Sergio van Dijk, center, tries to get through Vietnam’s Le Phuoc Tu, right, and Nguyen Xuan Thanh during their AFF Suzuki 2014 Cup match. (AFP Photo)

Jakarta. The Indonesian Football Association has expressed confidence it will meet its goals set for 2015, despite falling short of most of its targets last year.

The federation known as the PSSI says it will rely on the national under-23 squad to meet at least two goals this year: winning qualification for the 2016 Asian Football Confederation U-23 championship finals in Qatar, and winning a gold medal at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore.

The PSSI says the time has come for Indonesia to end its nearly quarter-century title drought at the biennial regional games. Indonesia last lifted the SEA Games football trophy in 1991, when the Games were hosted in Manila.

This year’s Games will run from June 5-16.

Before then, however, the U-23 team’s big test will be securing a spot in the AFC championships a year later, with qualifying matches taking place from March 23-31 this year.

Indonesia will host the qualifying matches for Group H, which also features Asian powerhouse South Korea and minnows Timor-Leste and Brunei.

“To qualify for the finals, we have to come out as the group winner or best overall runner-up. We have to ready to fight for it,” Aji Santoso, the U-23 coach, said during his presentation on Sunday at the PSSI congress in Jakarta.

Aji, who led Indonesia to its goal of reaching the knockout stage of last year’s Asian Games, said preparations had already begun, including two exhibition games against an international XI on Dec. 31 and against Martapura FC on Sunday afternoon.

“The national training camp will run again from February 1 to 15 to prepare the players for two more matches, while the third period of the camp is scheduled for March, when we have three other exhibition matches to play,” he said.

To meet the PSSI’s expectations, Aji said he hoped the team would get the full support of the federation and the clubs for which the players ply their trade.

“That support, including from the clubs, is important if we are to meet our goals,” Aji emphasized.

Despite a solid showing at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, the Indonesian men’s teams fell short on two other goals set earlier last year by the PSSI.

The under-19 side flopped at the AFC U-19 Championship, losing all three group stage matches and wiping out any good memories of the team winning the Asean Football Federation U-19 Championship in 2013. With the disastrous showing, the team has failed to qualify for this year’s U-20 World Cup.

Winning the AFF Suzuki Cup was also a main goal for the PSSI in 2014, but the senior side was found wanting, failing to qualify from the group stage of the biennial tournament.

Having been drawn alongside co-host Vietnam, the Philippines and Laos in the group stage, Indonesia was expected to advance easily into the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup. Instead, Indonesia was humiliated 4-0 by the Philippines, relegating it to third place in the group and out of contention for a place in the final four. Thailand eventually won the tournament.

Indonesia National Sports Committee (KONI) president Tono Suratman said the SEA Games would be Indonesia’s top sports priority this year.

“Winning overall at the regional event might help us raise the country’s image among other Southeast Asian countries. I hope the PSSI will send its best team to Singapore,” he said.

The PSSI congress also touched on plans for next season’s domestic competition, with the second-tier Premier Division to be trimmed to 36 clubs from the current 58.

To implement all its plans, the PSSI said it would need Rp 118.9 billion ($9.5 million). It expects 70 percent of that cost to be borne by sponsors.

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