Indonesia's squad changes scare Vietnam: naturalized player

By Hieu Luong   March 18, 2024 | 01:44 am PT
Naturalized midfielder Marc Klok said that Vietnam are afraid of the positive changes in Indonesian football, ahead of the encounter in the 2026 World Cup second qualifying round.

Klok was responding to Vietnamese midfielder Do Duy Manh's speaking to Vietnam Football Federation on March 11 that playing Indonesia is like playing Netherlands. His statement was related to the increase of naturalized players of Indonesian descent but born and raised in Europe, mostly the Netherlands, whose Indonesia was a colony of.

This statement sparked controversy among fans and media in Indonesia.

Klok said after gathering with the Indonesian national team on Sunday that all the players chosen for the World Cup qualifiers were Indonesian. He said Manh's statement showed that Vietnam are not comfortable having to face a brand new Indonesia with many naturalized players.

"Maybe in the past few years, Vietnam have only played with native Indonesian. Now they are scared after seeing how much Indonesia have changed," Klok said.

Marc Klok (black jersey) blocks Nguyen Hoang Duc from getting the ball in the AFF Cup semifinal between Vietnam and Indonesia in 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hieu Luong

Marc Klok (front) blocks Nguyen Hoang Duc from getting the ball in the AFF Cup semifinal between Vietnam and Indonesia in 2023. Photo by VnExpress/Hieu Luong

Klok was born in Netherlands, grew up in the youth academy of Dutch club Utrecht and joined Indonesian clubs PSM Makassar, then Persija Jakarta and now Persib Bandung. This midfielder first encountered Vietnam at SEA Games 31 in 2022.

He is one of 10 naturalized Indonesian players chosen for the clash with Vietnam, alongside defenders Jordi Amat, Sandy Walsh, Justin Hubner, Jay Idzes, Nathan Tjoe Aon, midfielders Thom Haye, Ivar Jenner, strikers Rafael Struick and Ragnar Oratmagoen. Haye and Oratmagoen have not completed the naturalization procedures so they cannot play the home game on March 21 but are expected to play the second leg on March 26 at Hanoi's My Dinh National Stadium.

According to Klok, Vietnam knew the strength of Indonesian football after the 0-1 defeat in the 2023 Asian Cup group stage in January. That was the first victory of Indonesia against Vietnam since the 2016 AFF Cup. The 30-year-old midfielder wants his teammates to continue that momentum.

"We must make every effort to keep winning against Vietnam," Klok said. "Vietnam were definitely not happy with that loss, but we have to show them who are the team with the better form."

Since Indonesia have naturalized more players, Klok is no longer a key player. However, he affirmed that he still maintains optimism, tries his best in training and is ready to contribute to the team, even if it's sitting on the bench.

Klok's opportunity to play in the upcoming two games against Vietnam is also a question due to injury. He has pain in his Achilles tendon and had to play with painkillers for the past two months.

Indonesia aim to get at least four points against Vietnam in the next two games and take the second place in group F. They are currently at the bottom with one point, same as Philippines and two points behind Vietnam.

History showed that Indonesia won nine, drew 11 and lost eight against Vietnam. In the last five encounters, Indonesia won 1-0 in the 2023 Asian Cup, lost 0-2 and drew 0-0 in the 2022 AFF Cup, drew 0-0 in the 2020 AFF Cup and lost 0-4 in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

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