AFF U-16 Cup And Efforts To Bring The "Spirit Of Sidoarjo" To Maguwoharjo
Illustration of the U-16 AFF Cup Final (Photo: Antara)

JAKARTA - In 2022, the U-16 AFF Cup will be held again in Indonesia after previously being held in Indonesia in 2002, 2008, 2010 and 2018. Yogyakarta was chosen as the venue for the tournament which was participated by 12 countries.

There are two stadiums prepared for the 2022 AFF U-16 Cup, namely Maguwoharjo Stadium, Sleman, and Sultan Agung Stadium, Bantul. However, the attention of Indonesian football fans is certain to only focus on Maguwoharjo because that is where all Indonesian matches are held.

As reported by Antara, the Indonesian U-16 national team, which was trained by Bima Sakti, is determined to be a champion in the competition, repeating a similar achievement in 2018. PSSI also wants that.

2018 has indeed been a special year for Indonesian football because the U-16 national team squad, nicknamed "Garuda Asia", won the AFF U-16 Cup champion title for the first time in history. An achievement that has not been repeated until now.

At that time, the AFF U-16 Cup was rolling at the Gelora Delta Stadium, Sidoarjo. There, Indonesia performed extraordinary. In the group phase, in Group A, Indonesia, which was then still coached by Fakhri Husaini, wiped out all matches with a win, scoring a total of 21 goals and conceding only three goals.

In the semifinals, Indonesia as the winner of Group A faced second place in Group B Malaysia and managed to beat their opponent 1-0. In the final, "Garuda Asia" beat Thailand on penalties after a 1-1 draw in normal time.

This success was greeted enthusiastically by Indonesian fans. Not a few shed happy tears at the Gelora Delta Stadium.

The same feeling of joy also happened at the Gelora Delta Sidoarjo Stadium, in 2013, to be precise, the Indonesian U-19 national team successfully won the U-19 AFF Cup. This means that Indonesia has won two titles at the Gelora Delta Stadium, something that previously only happened at the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium (SUGBK), Jakarta.

Spirit of Sidoarjo

What happens in Sidoarjo will not determine Indonesia's steps in the 2022 AFF U-16 Cup. However, the "spirit of Sidoarjo" can be a motivation for the Bima Sakti U-16 national team to climb to the top of the tournament.

The 2022 AFF U-16 Cup, which will take place on 31 July-12 August, will feature 12 nations divided into three groups.

Group A consists of Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore. Group B consists of Thailand, Timor Leste, Laos and Brunei Darussalam, while in Group C there are Malaysia, Australia, Myanmar and Cambodia.

In order to qualify for the semifinals, the participating teams must win the group or be the second best in the group phase.

Looking at the composition of Group A, Indonesia has great potential to qualify for the top four. It can be said, without getting rid of respect for other teams, the toughest competitor of "Garuda Asia" is Vietnam. However, Vietnam's strength at the U-15/U-16 level is actually not too different from Indonesia.

In fact, Vietnam has never been able to beat Indonesia in the U-16 AFF Cup since 2018. In the 2018 edition, Indonesia defeated Vietnam 4-2 and then beat them 0-2 in the 2019 AFF U-15 Cup.

Still in the 2019 AFF U-15 Cup, Indonesia won the match for third place from Vietnam on penalties because the normal time match ended without a goal.

In fact, Vietnam has the status of the most successful country in the AFF U-16 Cup with three titles, namely 2006, 2010 and 2017. This achievement is no different from Thailand which collected three championship trophies, namely 2007, 2011 and 2015.

The U-16 national team has been preparing since July 11, 2022 for the latest AFF U-16 Cup. In addition to training, they also conducted three trials with teams with older players, namely the U-20 Yogyakarta Provincial Porprov, U-18 Porda Sleman and Mataram Utama.

As a result, "Garuda Asia" ran aground 0-2 from Porprov DI Yogyakarta, but was able to rise and win over Porda Sleman U-18 (with a score of 5-1) and Mataram Utama (7-0).

Milky Way Factor

Another big asset of the U-16 national team that is often forgotten is the ability of the Bima Sakti coach.

Since being appointed by PSSI to be the tactician for the Indonesian U-15 national team in 2018, Bima has done a good job.

The 46-year-old brought his squad to qualify for the 2020 U-17 Asian Cup after becoming the second best team in qualifying. In the qualification, Indonesia was unbeaten and even able to match China 0-0.

Then, in his first experience at the U-16 AFF Cup, in 2019, Bima presented the third position for Indonesia.

Bima's experience as a coach is also a lot. He had served as assistant to coach Luis Milla in the senior national team and Indonesia U-23, then became the coach of the Indonesian national team in the 2018 AFF Cup.

In addition, Bima has been assigned by PSSI several times to assist the current Indonesian national team coach, Shin Tae-yong, in the U-19 national team.

Strategically, the Milky Way is always confident with what's in its head. The Indonesian national team player in the 1990s was not affected by the tactics of Shin Tae-yong, the South Korean coach who handled the U-19, U-23 and senior national teams in the country.

One of Shin Tae-yong's most obvious tactics in the past year has been the use of three defenders in matches.

With this strategy, Shin recorded several achievements, such as bringing the senior Indonesian national team to second place in the 2020 AFF Cup, bringing the U-23 national team to win the bronze medal in men's soccer at the 2021 SEA Games and passing the "Garuda" squad to the 2023 Asian Cup.

The Milky Way does not deny the effectiveness of that strategy. However, he has his own vision of the game that will be implemented in the 2022 AFF U-16 Cup.

The hallmark of Bima's game, players are asked to press the opponent, grab the ball as quickly as possible and make a directed counterattack. Therefore, for him, the transition of the game is very important.

The match versus the Philippines, Sunday, July 31, will be Bima Sakti's first challenge in the 2022 AFF U-16 Cup. The match will be held at the Maguwoharjo Stadium, Sleman, Yogyakarta, starting at 20.00 WIB.

"Our target is to win. However, we must win with the right process, with sportsmanship. We must respect all opponents," said Bima as quoted by Antara.

Meanwhile, the Philippines U-16 national team coach Christopher Pedimonte considers Indonesia as a tough team and difficult to beat. However, Christopher refused to give up before the match.

"We will do our best and show we are a competitive team," he said.

The 2022 AFF U-16 Cup takes place on 31 July-12 August. The teams participating in this tournament were divided into three groups.

After meeting the Philippines, Indonesia will face Singapore on August 3, then try out the power of Vietnam on August 6.

The drums for the 2022 AFF U-16 Cup have been beaten. Spread your wings and fly high, Garuda Asia!

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