PHNOM PENH, KOMPAS — Having had a longer time to rest, the Indonesian U-22 football team is expected to have more physical agility than Myanmar, seeking full points when they meet in their Group A second match at the ongoing SEA Games in Cambodia. A win would take Young Garuda closer to the semifinals.
The match will take place at the National Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh, on Thursday (4/5/2023) at 4 p.m. Coach Indra Sjafri’s team is now in second place with three points. Myanmar has also collected three points but with a goal margin inferior to that of Indonesia. Host Cambodia tops the group standings with four points from two matches.
Indonesian players will take to the field with better fitness, having rested for four days, compared to Myanmar’s one day of rest, after the latter played its opening match on May 2, which gave it a 1-0 win over Timor-Leste.
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Coach Indra sees it as giving his players the upper hand physically. “We hold the advantage as Myanmar played its game just yesterday. From today’s last session of practices, no one has been injured and all players are fit,” he said.
The players were preparing for the Myanmar game with enthusiasm and optimism after they had managed to meet their initial target of collecting full points in the first match.
We hold the advantage as Myanmar played its game just yesterday.
The win over the Philippines came to their relief given the players had struggled under pressure of the opponents in the first half before finally gaining control of the match to run out a 3-0 winner.
Left-back Pratama Arhan hailed the team as being in a conducive situation and, expecting to have much better stamina, in optimism about producing positive results over Myanmar.
The team implemented its preparation workout at Visakha FC’s training ground, which has quite a good-quality grass layout. The training session took place in a fluid and loose atmosphere.
It was some 90 minutes of practice, during which the players looked serious but cheerful. Without a trace of psychological tension, tiredness nor gloomy facial expressions, they followed the training regime created by Indra. Cheerfulness and a lively atmosphere overwhelmed the trainees.
“Winning the first match indeed has lifted [players’ game] morale. The first game proved crucial. It has boosted mentality. Hopefully, we can go through the matches well one-by-one,” Arhan said, at the end of the training session.
Team manager Sumardji said the players had been in good condition, physically and mentally. Having watched the video of the Myanmar and Timor-Leste game, he said Indra and his coaching staff had pinpointed their next opponents’ weak area.
Apart from the stamina factor, Indonesia also holds the upper hand in head-to-head record with Myanmar in the U-22 competition. In the previous three meetings, Indonesia registered two wins and a draw. The wins were achieved in the U-22 AFF Cup in 2017 and 2019, while its match at the Hassanal Bolkiah tournament in 2019 ended in a draw.
Myanmar was able to outperform Timor-Leste in its opening match in Group A. However, it failed to score a goal from an open-play scheme. Instead, the goal came from a set-piece after winning a corner kick. In every pre-match training session, Indra anticipated the threats posed by Myanmar’s set-pieces. The day before the match, the players simulated their own attacking and defending scenario from set-pieces.
Apart from being good at set-pieces, Myanmar players at both flanks are quick at exploiting the space between goalkeeper and defenders, as they showed in the match against Timor-Leste. However, they also proved themselves porous in the back area, with defenders frequently retreating too slowly to close the gap when forced to transition from attacking to defending. This loophole, which was identified as one of their weaknesses, can be exploited by Indonesia, which is known to have players with speedy paces.
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“Having watched the Myanmar versus Timor-Leste match, we have several responses to Myanmar prepared … today,” Indra said.
A win over Myanmar would make it easier for Young Garuda to advance to the next round (semifinals). The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) is targeting winning the most-elusive gold. The last time the Garuda team won gold was in 1991 in the Philippines.
In Vietnam 2021, Shin Tae-yong’s team had to settle for a bronze medal after it was beaten in the semifinals by Thailand, the collector of 16 SEA Games men’s soccer gold, compared to Indonesia’s two.
This article was translated by Musthofid.
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