Fan-Vs-Fan: Indonesia - Australia

Indonesia host Australia on Wednesday evening - the Socceroos' first match of their bid to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup.
Ahead of the big match in Jakarta, talks to Bima Said of Indonesia and Australian football writer Con Stamocostas.

How important is this game?

- Indonesians have highly passionate fans. Any game is important.  

Australia - The game is important in two contexts: getting the second tier Socceroos experience in Asia so the pool of players Pim Verbeek has to pick from for the World Cup get vital exposure to his tactics and style of play; doing that in a competitive international in Asia will benefit the players greatly.    

Is the Asian Cup a priority?

-Yes. We didn't succeed in the AFF Cup and World Cup 2010 qualifiers. Having reached every Asian Cup since 1996, it would be very disappointing to miss out in 2011.  

Australia -Yes all international trophies are important - the FFA cupboard is bare. Australians like winners so winning is good for the Socceroos brand commercially, not forgetting the fans traveling to Asia to experience the thrill a different cultural and football competition.  

Australia's big-name stars will not be there, how do you feel about that?

Indonesia - This proves that Australia has placed a low priority on the Asian Cup because their major aim is to reach World Cup 2010. That looks very clear. Nevertheless, you would expect a second string Aussie team to still match the strongest Indonesian line-up, and perhaps do even better. It is disappointing that the big stars aren't in Jakarta, but Indonesia can still expect a tough match.

Australia -Part of me wishes that some fringe Socceroos in Europe were given a chance. There are players in Scandinavia, Greece and Russia like David Williams, Nathan Burns and even Luke Wilkshire who could have been used. The FIFA window not being open has caused the overseas players to be logistically unavailable. It will be interesting to see how the A-league players go; we could find a potential star.    

Indonesia is the closest Asian nation to Australia, is there are special feeling/rivalry?

Indonesia -Although we're neighbours, I'm not sure we have a special rivalry when it comes to sports. Indonesians, along with China and South Korea, are the world's best when it comes to the sport of badminton. And Australians are top class in rugby and cricket. Those are sports we never really compete in.

When it comes to football, It's nothing close compared to Man United vs. Liverpool. Maybe after this match and the away match, things will look a bit different. But apart from that, of course there's also strong friendship. There are lots of Indonesians who study and work in Australia, and many Aussies visit Indonesia, mainly for tourism and there are also quite a lot of expats. In politics, sometimes we will argue against one another, but that is a common thing to do in a democracy.

Australia -I suppose it's time to grow one. Australia played Indonesia in Perth in March 2005 and Australia won that game 3-0. Indonesian club sides have played A-league clubs in the Asian Champions League in past with Persik Kediri having beaten Sydney FC before. So the rivalry is growing. 

How happy are you with your respective coaches?

- Benny Dollo has not convinced me that he is currently the best coach for the Indonesian team. He came in for a second term to replace Bulgarian Ivan Kolev two years ago, but he has brought very little to the squad. He was heavily criticised for failing to make an impact in the AFF Cup. If I was him, I would avoid such disgrace and quit my post. But Dollo, just like our corrupt FA chief, choses to stay.

Australia -Pim Verbeek is going great. We are two wins away from the world cup. The team has played badly and won at times and there is still improvement to be made but overall I am quite happy. 

How is the team's form?

-Very bad if not terrible. We escaped with a goalless draw at Oman, but that is simply because their players were too tired, just two days after beating the Saudis in the Gulf Cup final by virtue of a penalty shoot-out.

Meanwhile, we had a lot of time to prepare after losing to Thailand in the AFF semis, a tournament we have never won before, even with the luxury of hosting it. Tens of thousands of Indonesians continuously support the national team, only to come home disappointed or angered two hours later. No major trophy since 1991 takes a lot of patience.

Australia- The A-league players chosen have been in form in the A-League this season and should be fit so hopefully Pim can get them playing well with each other. The problem will be adapting to the Dutch style when most A-League coaches play a different style of football. 

Which player should the other team watch out for?

Indonesia- I'm sure Boaz Salossa is in fine form. The 22-year-old Papuan was miraculously omitted from the AFF squad but was in good shape against Oman. I think if he gets support from Elie Aiboy, Firman Utina and Syamsul Bachri Chaerudin from midfield, Indonesia will have a strong chance to beat Australia.

Australia -Shannon Cole's free kicks and crosses if he is chosen, Scott Jamieson is a speedy left back from Adelaide has been in great form this year, Archie Thomson on his day can be menacing for defence. It all depends on who Pim picks to play. I'd love to see Michael Zullo and Tarek Elrich have a go as well as they can both be quick and explosive.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of your team?  

Indonesia -Indonesia have always lacked the physical strength to go the full 90 minutes. But these players can really gel as a team and create opportunities for one another. But in a game against Australia, they will need to be able to control the tempo of the game, and not make silly passes and fouls. You can expect Indonesia to do just that.

Australia -Australian teams are usually defined by good physical strength, organization, sometimes speed and in Asia, a threat from corners and set pieces.  

Traditionally Australia’s weakness has been a lack of technique and a lack of flair and the presence of creative players who are able to breakdown defences. The Asian climate when it is hot and humid and raining can be a factor as well, keeping possession and playing a slower tempo is something Australian teams have had to learn to deal with in Asia if they are to be successful. 

What will the score be?

Indonesia-It seems that the Aussies are underestimating us. I reckon Indonesia winning 2-1 is a good learning lesson for those guys down under.

Australia-  Australia 2-1

Do you have a message for the other team?

Indonesia -Never underestimate the Indonesians. It might come back to haunt you some day. But wait, you have done that before. Sydney FC came to town in the 2007 Asian Champions League and lost 2-1 to an attacking Persik Kediri side. 

Australia-  Just that I look forward to the encounter. The atmosphere will be amazing and hopefully we can witness a good game and may the best team win - Australia, of course!

Bima Said & Con Stamocostas