Kuala Lumpur: Indonesia head coach Simon McMenemy is anticipating some ‘hotly contested’ matches in Group G of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Wednesday.
The Garuda were drawn with three Southeast Asian rivals - Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam - with the United Arab Emirates the top seeded team.
“I was watching the draw and you just knew how it was going to unfold, you could sense it in the room,” McMenemy said in an exclusive interview with the-AFC.com.
“Once you saw Malaysia was playing with Indonesia, you just had this feeling of, 'Wow, wouldn’t it be interesting if Thailand and Vietnam were put in as well.'"
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The eight group winners and four best second placed teams will not only qualify for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 but will continue their journey towards Qatar 2022 by advancing to the final round of the Qualifiers.
The next best 24 teams will compete for the remaining spots in China 2023.
However, should 2022 FIFA World Cup hosts Qatar emerge as group winners, the five best second-placed teams will advance to the third round.
Should Qatar emerge as one of the best four runners-up, the fifth best second-placed team will advance to the third round of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
While McMenemy was excited with the draw result, the 41-year-old coach is hopeful of finishing in the top two.
“There are going to be some interesting games and I think for the region (ASEAN), the excitement and buzz is going to go through the roof now. I think everybody feels that maybe that second place is attainable,” said McMenemy, who was the head coach of the Philippines in 2010.
“These are all teams that we know, teams that we’ve battled against, I don’t think there will be any secrets."
"But from a coach’s perspective, it causes problems. I’m not a fan of derbies because players tend to get too involved and passionate, and sometimes emotions can spill over. So trying to control players in that sort of environment is quite tough.
“UAE are the strength in the group without a shadow of a doubt but they are going to find it hard to come to Southeast Asia to play four times. Classically, West Asian teams find it difficult, much like when we travel out there, we find it difficult."
“That game aside, I think because we know each other so well, it’s going to be seen as a level playing field.
"Home advantage is going to be massive but what’s nice is that for the supporters, there will be a huge amount of optimism for everybody.
"I think all four (ASEAN) teams will believe they can get to second place because we know each other so well."
Indonesia open their campaign against Malaysia on September 5 at home.
Photos: Football Association of Indonesia, AFP
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