Indonesia stronger than Vietnam: Southeast Asian football expert

By Xuan Binh   March 21, 2024 | 12:43 am PT
According to ASEAN Football Federation commentator Rhysh Rai, Indonesia have advantages over Vietnam thanks to their naturalized players and longer training time with their coach.

Rai believes that the next two matches between Indonesia and Vietnam on March 21 and 26 are crucial in Group F of the 2026 World Cup second-qualifying round.

The two teams know each other very well due to many encounters at the AFF Cup and recently the Asian Cup.

"Indonesia are probably a little stronger thanks to the combination of naturalized and native players who have just brought the team past the Asian Cup group stage," Rai told VnExpress.

Defender Bui Hoang Viet Anh (left) wins an aerial duel against Indonesias naturalized player Sandy Walsh during the 2023 Asian Cup group stage game in Qatar on January 19, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Defender Bui Hoang Viet Anh (L) wins an aerial duel against Indonesia's naturalized player Sandy Walsh during the 2023 Asian Cup group stage game in Qatar on Jan. 19, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Lam Thoa

Rai is a former Singaporean player, currently working as an official commentator at tournaments of the ASEAN Football Federation.

In the 2023 Asian Cup, Indonesia used seven naturalized players, which contributed to the 1-0 victory over Vietnam in the group stage.

Coach Shin Tae-yong even flew to Europe to convince four more players to play for Indonesia before playing Vietnam in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers.

This strategy is not appreciated by Rai.

"They are taking advantage of players that have Indonesian descent and they have the right to do so," Rai said. "But national football aims to find which country trains their players better. Therefore, every team needs to prioritize developing their native players."

Most of Indonesia's naturalized players don't have a parent from this country but have roots dating back to their grandparents.

Coach Philippe Troussier has also used a naturalized player, goalkeeper Filip Nguyen from the Czech Republic, whose father is Vietnamese.

Troussier has only worked with Vietnam for a year and recently lost five matches in a row.

Rai believes that Troussier needs time to infuse his style and football philosophy into the players, so that he can understand them better.

"Troussier will also learn a lot from watching the team play against stronger opponents," he added.

Before the match at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, midfielder Nguyen Hoang Duc said Vietnam players understood coach Troussier's football philosophy. However, Rai believes that the French coach is under pressure.

"People always judge the teams based on results," Rai said. "Troussier is under a lot of pressure and he understands that. The team must show progress in the next match against Indonesia."

If Iraq win all six matches in Group F, Vietnam will take second place and advance if they win one of the two matches against Indonesia this month and defeat the Philippines at home in June.

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