Thursday, December 2, 2010

Will This Finally Be Riedl's Time?

Alfred Riedl (right) conducting Indonesia training at Stadium Bung Karno. (Picture taken from AFF Suzuki Cup official website)
He has worked miracles wherever he has gone in Southeast Asia. Just ask the Vietnamese and Laotians. Both countries have nothing but praise for him for his work done in these two countries.

Such is the impact made that the locals in Vietnam were willing to offer their kidneys when the Austrian veteran coach was diagnosed with kidney failure earlier in the past decade.

While present Vietnam head coach Henrique Caslito was the toast of the town two years ago when he led them to their first ever international title, it was Riedl who laid the foundations for the success of the present team.

He has had three stints with Vietnam, leading them to the then-Tiger Cup runners-up as hosts in 1998 and steering them into the last eight of the AFC Asian Cup finals in 2007.

Then in the 2009 Southeast Asian Games hosted by Laos, he led the host nation to unprecedent new territory as they exceeded expectations by reaching the last four of the football tournament. Many from that class now form the core of the present Laotian national team playing in the ongoing Suzuki Cup.

Unlike the Indochinese states, this archipalego nation will be a tougher nut to crack. Ivan Kolev came close. Peter Withe divided Indonesia with his coaching style. Benny Dolo could not get the best out of the talent available. Ditto the other local and foreign coaches that have come and gone in the elusive chase of regional supremacy.

On paper, the likes of Uruguayan-born Christian Gonzalez, Bambang Pangmukas, Muhd Riduan and company represent some of the best talents the fourth most populous nation in the world has produced in the international scene. Getting the best out of the them has been another story with their mecurial form.

Where others have failed, now it is Riedl's turn to make what is seemingly impossible into gold. That means the championship trophy. While honours have remained elusive for the genial Austrian in the region so far, his track record in turning minnows into contenders is not to be overlooked.

Indonesia have more talent in abundance, to the point of being able to axe several because of ill-discipline, than Laos presently and Vietnam then pre-1998. The pressure is on this man to deliver, but having faced tougher opponents on the pitch and in life, he is ready and capable of bringing some joy at last to the football-mad nation.

The Indonesians' 5-1 opening Group A victory over Malaysia on Wednesday evening signalled the first steps forward.

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