Indonesia confident naturalized footballer roster has Vietnam 'confused'

By Trung Thu   March 16, 2024 | 01:00 am PT
Indonesia have doubled down on their formidable lineup controversially brimming with naturalized players from the Netherlands amid criticism from Vietnam arch-nemeses before their World Cup qualifying matches this month.

Erick Thohir, president of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), said the plan remained unchanged even though it had "confused" Vietnam.

Vietnam national team defender Do Duy Manh riled the public on both sides with his quip: "Sometimes we joke with each other that we don't know if we will play against the Netherlands or Indonesia."

Summoning a squad bolstered by 10 naturalized talents, predominantly with Dutch origins but now representing Indonesia, the stage is set for an electrifying clash at the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

Manh's jab has ignited a fervent debate within Southeast Asian media circles.

Thohir, speaking at an event in Jakarta on Thursday, characterized Manh's remarks as indicative of the taken-by-surprise nature the Vietnamese team’s response to the Indonesian roster.

In other words, he thinks the plan is already working.

"It's understandable if they find themselves puzzled by Indonesia's resurgence under my leadership," Thohir asserted.

"After all, we, too, once grappled with Vietnam's formidable strength five or six years back."

PSSI president Erick Thohir. Photo by Facebook/Erick Thohir

PSSI president Erick Thohir. Photo by Facebook/Erick Thohir

Vietnam have dominated Indonesia over the last half decade, losing only once at the 2023 Asian Cup earlier this year.

A towering figure in both Indonesian and international football, Thohir emphasized the importance of mutual motivation and adaptability, particularly in the face of adversity.

Thohir is an Indonesian billionaire who was the former president of Italian club Inter and became president of PSSI last year. According to him, both Vietnam and Indonesia are sometimes confused before each encounter but said it’s necessary for the two teams to motivate each other and constantly make changes after each defeat.

International football journalists are closely monitoring Indonesia's experiment with naturalized players, intrigued by the potential impact it may have on the team's performance and the broader implications for the landscape of international football.

Tran Anh Tu, Vice President of the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF), has labeled Indonesia's ambitious naturalization drive as a testament to their determination to emerge victorious, especially in light of Vietnam's injury-laden squad challenges.

In response, Manh acknowledged Indonesia's boundless energy and fervor on the field, noting that their enhanced roster with naturalized talents presents an additional challenge. However, the tenacious 27-year-old defender asserted Vietnam's unwavering confidence, underscoring the depth of quality within their own ranks.

Among the illustrious names comprising Indonesia's naturalized ensemble are defenders Jordi Amat, Sandy Walsh, Justin Hubner, Jay Idzes, Nathan Tjoe Aon, midfielders Thom Haye, Marc Klok, Ivar Jenner, and strikers Rafael Struick and Ragnar Oratmagoen. Notably, Haye and Oratmagoen will be sidelined for the first leg at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on March 21 due to pending naturalization procedures.

The tense encounters will determine who ascends to second place in Group F.

Having amassed just one point after two matches, Indonesia currently languish at the bottom of the group, trailing Vietnam two points.

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