Holding a slight advantage as it goes into its final group stage match of the 2012 AFF Suzuki Cup, Indonesia knows it cannot afford to make even the smallest mistake when it plays Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur’s Bukit Jalil Stadium on Saturday night.
Indonesia leads Group B with four points and needs to at least hold reigning champion Malaysia to a draw in order to advance to the semifinal round.
A loss will most likely end its regional championship hopes. Indonesia could lose and still advance, provided Singapore loses to Laos, but that scenario looks unlikely based on both teams’ records so far.
With a decisive match to play, coach Nil Maizar urged his players to keep calm and focus on the opponent.
“We must stay positive and work hard on the pitch. We have to think positive and be patient when playing against Malaysia,” he said on Friday.
The Merah Putih started its AFF Cup campaign in unimpressive fashion, being held to a 2-2 draw by Laos in last Sunday’s opener. But it rebounded with a 1-0 win over Singapore on Wednesday, which rocketed Indonesia to the top of the group.
Nil looks at his team’s a fighting spirit as a key to the match, since it has already carried Indonesia this far.
“We need to have the fighting spirit against a strong and experienced Malaysian team. We are hopeful that we can overcome them,” he said.
There will be few changes for the Merah Putih. Central defender Wahyu Wijiastanto will miss the match after picking up two yellow cards. Fortunately, Handi Ramdhan and Tonny Cussel have recovered from their injuries.
The squad will also welcome back goalkeeper Endra Prasetya, who sat out the Singapore game after getting a red card against Laos.
With more options available to him, Nil is expected to finalize his lineup just before the game starts.
Malaysia is coming off a 4-1 win over Laos on Wednesday but finds itself in a must-win position in order to advance.
The team is tied with on points with Singapore, but trails on goal difference.
“At this stage, the players must know the importance of this game,” said Malaysia coach Rajagobal Krishnasamy.
“They must have the confidence to play much better. The mind-set [in the team] is to beat Indonesia.”
The game is scheduled for kickoff at 7:45 p.m. Jakarta time.