Miracles happen in Indonesia. Head coach Shin Tae-yong celebrated by giving each of his players an intense hug after the team qualified for the round of 16.
The Indonesians were drawn in Group D with Iraq, Japan, and Vietnam. Grouped with strong ‘favorites’ Japan and ‘dark horses’ Iraq and Vietnam, Indonesia was expected to finish last in the Asian Cup.
From the first round, it wasn’t easy. After falling behind 0-1 against Iraq, Ferdinand equalized in the 37th minute of the first match, but the team conceded further goals and couldn’t overcome the weight difference to lose 1-3. The team surprised everyone by briefly showing that they were not outclassed, but they faded in the second half and were unable to overcome the difference in quality.
The second match against Vietnam was crucial for Indonesia. They defied the odds and won 1-0 with a goal from Asnawi to keep their hopes of reaching the round of 16 alive.
Even if they lost the third game against Japan, they still had a chance to reach the round of 16. The match resulted in a 1-3 loss. With three points, Indonesia ended the group stage in third place in the final Group D standings.
With the group stage complete, all that remained was the outcome of the match between Oman and Kyrgyzstan. With three points, Indonesia was in fourth place in the wildcard standings, and if either Oman or Kyrgyzstan won, Indonesia would not be among the top four wildcard teams and would not advance to the round of 16.
Then a miracle happened. Oman and Kyrgyzstan drew and failed to overturn Indonesia’s position in the standings. With three points, Indonesia remained in the fourth wildcard spot and advanced to the round of 16, while Oman finished with two points and Kyrgyzstan with one point.
In a video posted by the Indonesian national team’s official social media accounts, head coach Shin Tae-yong hugged each of his players to share his joy after the round of 16 was confirmed, and the players broke into song to celebrate.
For the first time in their history, Indonesia have reached the round of 16 at the Asian Cup, where they will face ‘traditional powerhouse’ Australia. It will be interesting to see if head coach Shin Tae-yong, who upset ‘world champions’ Germany at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, can create another ‘magic’ with the Indonesian team.