As Indonesia become first through to Southeast Asian Games semifinals, Ramadhan Sananta shapes as real star of the future

With the opening goal in Indonesia's 3-0 win over Timor-Leste on Saturday, which sealed their place in the men's football semifinals at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games, Ramadhan Sananta took his tally to three goals in as many games. PSSI

As they claimed a third consecutive win in the men's football tournament of the 32nd Southeast Asian Games by cruising to a 3-0 Group A victory over Timor-Leste on Saturday, Indonesia became the first team to secure their place in the semifinals.

Having been frustrated by a stubborn Timor-Leste outfit for most of the opening 45, Indonesia finally found the breakthrough just before halftime via a Ramadhan Sananta header before Fajar Fathur Rahman's second-half double made sure of the three points -- and his side's last-four berth.

Reaching the last four would have been the minimum target for Indonesia considering the talent at coach Indra Sjafri's disposal and given they had achieved that in the past six editions dating back to 2011, as well as the fact that the luck of the draw had given them a considerably simpler route to the semis -- with Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, the other semifinalists from battling it out in Group B.

Still, that should take nothing away from the Indonesians, who have lived up to all expectations so far having scored 11 goals while conceding none in their three outings so far.

Tougher tests will follow come the semis regardless of who they come up against, but a huge positive has been some sparkling individual displays to go with their well-rounded performances as a team.

Wonderkid Marselino Ferdinan has been brilliant, senior stars Witan Sulaeman, Alfeandra Dewangga and Pratama Arhan have drawn on their experience to be steady contributors, while Fajar -- now the tournament's top scorer with four goals -- has been a livewire down the wing.

But perhaps the biggest revelation has been spearhead Sananta, who is just behind Fajar on the scoring charts with three goals in as many games.

Even more so because he is shining in a position where Indonesia have lacked genuine quality in recent times.

The Indonesians used to boast some of Southeast Asia's most fearsome strikers.

The most famous is undeniably the iconic Bambang Pamungkas, who scored a staggering 259 goals in 535 appearances for club and country and is adored and idolised throughout the country.

There was also Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto, briefly on the books of Sampdoria during a glorious era under Sven-Goran Eriksson with household names such as Roberto Mancini and Attilio Lombardo in their ranks, who then went on to become the first Indonesian to play in a top-flight European league with Luzern in Switzerland.

The duo did leave massive shoes that have yet to be truly filled since.

Irfan Bachdim had his moments but was never able to sustain any sort of continuity, while the likes of Lerby Eliandry, Kushedya Hari Yudo and Ezra Walian struggled to make an impact when it came to the international stage.

Instead, Indonesia were left to either rely on wider attacking options deployed out of position as a No. 9, or turn to naturalising foreign-born focal points such as Beto Goncalves and Ilija Spasojevic.

Yet, given the promising displays Sananta has already produced at this edition of the SEA Games, there is reason for Indonesian football to be optimistic.

While footballers in the region are not always blessed with size, Santana stands at a decent 1.82 metres with a powerful frame that allows him to do battle with the strongest of opponents and hold up play as the sole striker.

Despite this physique of his, the PSM Makassar man is deceptively agile and quick and, most importantly, he has shown a keen eye for goal.

Of course, it would be unfair -- and even dangerous -- to put the immense pressure of being the next Bambang or Kurniawan on such young, 20-year-old shoulders.

Nonetheless, after years of crying out for a leading man, the Indonesians now have a gem who has the potential to perform that role for the next decade and more and lead them to glory.

The first of that could just come at this year's SEA Games for Indonesia and Sananta.