Fans for Indos, history for Korea

Wayne Hay previews the crucial Group D clash between Indonesia and Korea Republic.

    Indonesian striker Bambang Pamungkas has been a
    big part of his team's Asian Cup success [EPA]

    With one host nation already qualified for the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup, it's all eyes on Indonesia to see whether they can join Vietnam in the last eight of the tournament.

    Indonesia play the under-performing South Koreans in front of what will be a sell-out crowd of almost 90,000 thousand people in Jakarta on Wednesday.

    The race for a ticket in the Indonesian capital is almost as intense as the race for the Asian Cup itself, and on the eve of the final group game, hundreds of Indonesian football fans raced to the ticket booths just outside the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium not even knowing whether there were any tickets available.

    The fans were simply taking a punt that they'd get in to see the hottest story in town, but at one stage the throng of people threatened to turn into a crush as they tried to push their way to the front of the line.

    However it does provide evidence that there is a new air of optimism swirling around Indonesian football.

    Before the Asian Cup started there was real skepticism among the fans about the chances of the Indonesian team having any sort of success in the tournament, but now on the brink of making the quarter-finals, that same group of players has won back the support of the fans.

    "I think the Indonesian football team is playing much better than they did in previous years, so that is why we're here," an Indonesia supporter said.

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    "We've been very easily beaten by other countries two or three years ago, but now we have quite high optimism that we will be able to fight against other teams like South Korea and Saudi Arabia."

    They're aiming for victory, but a draw may still be enough to see Indonesia through to the quarter-finals, and one man who has played a big part in getting them to this stage is striker Bambang Pamungkas.

    Pamungkas, a Jakarta local, has been one of the stars of the tournament so far, and says the crowd has been a huge help to the team.

    "When you play with 100,000 fans supporting you, you have extra power," the star striker said.

    "Sometimes you can do nothing, but with the support of them you can make it."

    Verbeek under pressure

    South Korea coach Pim Verbeek didn't want to
    speculate about his future as manager [EPA]

    Pim Verbeek, the coach of South Korea, tried his best to appear relaxed in front of the cameras, playing up to the constant flashes at the official media conference on the eve of the big match.

    But the Dutchman is under fire from Korean media and fans after what has been a below-par performance from his team, and he's already fending off questions about his future in the job, should Korea fail to qualify for the next round.

    "First of all I love the Korean fans, you know that," Verbeek said.

    "They are disappointed as we all are, but I never give answers on 'if' questions, so we are focussing on the game tomorrow and we think we can beat Indonesia and go to the next round, so there's no reason at all for me to answer any questions.. 'if, if, if'".

    South Korea will need to register their first win of the tournament if they are to have any chance of staying alive.

    History is on their side however, as they haven't lost to Indonesia in 20 years.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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