Minnows Laos have been the whipping boys in the AFF since 1996, managing only two wins (against Cambodia in 1996 and 2004) out of the 27 matches played in the group stages.
However, Indonesia’s coach, Nil Maizar, believes it is anybody’s game to qualify for the semi-finals from Group B, which also features defending champions Malaysia and three-times champions Singapore.
Indonesia have never won the Suzuki Cup. They are the eternal bridesmaid of the competition, having finished runners-up four times – in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2010.
Indonesia, however, are not here with their best players. Nil has only picked those from the Indonesia Premier League (IPL), which is sanctioned by the All-Indonesia Football Association (PSSI), and left out players from the rebel Indonesia Super League.
“We have to treat every team with respect. We have to be focused even when playing Laos,” said Nil yesterday.
“I have been with the team since July and have picked the best available 22 players.”
Two years ago, Indonesia topped their group unbeaten and went on to reach the final where they were defeated 4-2 on aggregate by Malaysia, whom they had beaten 5-1 in the opening group match.
Laos coach Kokichi Kimura said his team have nothing to lose in the competition.
“I’m just looking for a good performance from my boys,” said the Japanese coach who took over in July.
“Indonesia are a strong side but we are not worried. We just want to make an impression.”