Sun, 03 Sep 2000

Striker pair puzzles RI ahead of final

JAKARTA (JP): The coach of the national soccer team, Nandar Iskandar, faces a dilemma in naming his strikers for the Independence Cup final against Iraq on Sunday.

Nandar said he was not satisfied with some of the striker combinations in the previous three matches, in which he paired Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto with either Gendut Dony or Rocky Puttiray.

"Pairing Kurniawan with Rocky brought a lot of difficulties because the latter has never trained with the national team," Nandar said.

Rocky, who currently plays for the Hong Kong-based Instant Dict club, joined the national team just one day before the Cup kicked off.

The coach also admitted he was less than comfortable in giving Gandut a place in his starting lineup given his lack of international experience.

Indonesia settled for a goalless draw against a weakened Iraqi side in their first encounter on Friday, after having scored five goals in its previous two matches against Myanmar and Chinese Taipei.

Nandar hinted he preferred Europe-based Bambang Pamungkas to partner Kurniawan in leading his team's charge.

In the center of the field, Nandar said he would continue to play experienced players like Aji Santoso, Anang Ma'ruf, Bima Sakti, Uston Nawawi, and the younger Ismet Sofyan and Imran Nahumarury.

In the defensive half, Nur'alim looks to form the backbone along with Warsidi, Eko Purjianto and new national team member Jet Donald Laala, who received a call-up after the end of the Bank Mandiri soccer league last month.

Nandar maintained he would field the lineup that would be the most ideal to overcome a solid Iraqi team on Sunday.

"I have told my players to be prepared for any type of playing style from Iraq," he said, adding that the goalless draw on Friday was not a true representation of Iraq's actual strength.

"We will be watchful of Iraq's key players. Iraq will surely field all its best players in the final," he said.

A victory will give Indonesia its first international title since it won the gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games in 1991. A win also would provide Indonesia a boost for the Asian Cup finals in Lebanon in October.

Iraq is using this tournament to assess how far its junior players may go in the Asian Youth Under-19 championships and the 2002 World Cup prequalifying round later this year.

From Friday's match, Nandar said Iraq received a good indication of Indonesia's speed and power, and also learned that Indonesia had trouble cracking Iraq's solid defense.

Iraq coach Barja Maric pledged a full-action final match. "The big match is on Sunday. We want to win and we will dedicate the match to the public." (ivy)