DUBAI, KOMPAS.com – Indonesia’s dreams of making it to yet another World Cup has all but faded, after regional rivals Vietnam emphatically beat them 4-0 in their Group G qualification match in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates on Monday evening, local time.
The Indonesian squad found itself on the defensive from kick-off at the Al Maktoum Stadium, as Vietnam boxed in the Garuda on their part of the field for the first half of the game.
But Indonesia managed to keep a clean sheet until Nguyen Tien Linh put Vietnam up 1-0 in the 51st minute, as he volleyed in a previous shot that bounced back after hitting the goalpost.
The goal was more than a bit controversial, as Tien Linh was suspected of manually steadying the ball before scoring the goal.
A number of Indonesian players swarmed and questioned the referee for allowing the goal, with the referee even booking Indonesian goalkeeper Nadeo Argawinata for excessive protest.
“[Indonesia] might have lost the ball long before Tien Linh scored. He was guilty of handball, but the referee did not see it that way despite his proximity to the situation,” Indonesia’s South Korean born coach Shin Tae-yong lamented.
“The referee’s senseless decision disrupted Indonesia’s rhythm of play, and turned the situation in an unfavorable direction for us.” Shin’s compatriot, Vietnam soccer coach Park Hang Seo, refused to comment on the referee’s decision.
Tien Linh’s goal led the way, as Vietnam extended their lead through Nguyen Quang Hai in the 62nd minute, Nguyen Phuong Cong in the 67th minute, and Van Thanh Vu in the 72nd minute mark.
Vietnam dominated the game with 71 percent possession, firing 17 shots on goal. In contrast, Indonesia only managed to shoot four shots on goal, only one of which was on target.
The defeat left Indonesia as bottom dwellers in Group G, losing six of seven games and drawing one.
On the other hand, Vietnam is poised to become the first Southeast Asian country to qualify for the World Cup in over 80 years, since Indonesia qualified for the 1938 edition of the tournament as the Dutch East Indies.
Long known as a regional powerhouse in Southeast Asia, Vietnam led Group G with 14 points, followed by the United Arab Emirates with 12 points. Southeast Asian stalwarts Thailand and Malaysia came next with nine points, with Indonesia dead last in the standings with one point.
Indonesia will end its dismal World Cup qualification run on June 11 by taking on the United Arab Emirates, as the hosts still seek to top their group and qualify for the World Cup.
(Writer: M. Hafidz Imaduddin | Editor: Eris Eka Jaya)