Indonesia produce tantalising display to keep dream AFC U-23 Asian Cup debut going

In their tournament debut, Indonesia are through to the quarterfinals of the 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup after claiming a stunning 4-1 victory over Jordan on Sunday to finish second in Group A. KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images

If Indonesia's 2024 AFC U-23 Asian Cup exploits had begun with a controversial loss to Qatar and continued with a shock win over Australia that was far from pretty, they certainly saved their best for last as they completed their Group A campaign on Sunday.

With an electrifying performance, Indonesia claimed an emphatic 4-1 win over Jordan to seal second place in the group and book their quarterfinal berth -- in what is their tournament debut.

This, at the expense of one of the continent's traditional powerhouses in Australia, who meekly exited without even scoring a goal, as well as Jordan, whose senior team did brilliantly to reach the final of the AFC Asian Cup less than three months ago.

And, while relative unfancied teams do occasionally eke out such results through dogged, backs-against-the-wall displays, what Indonesia produced against the Jordanians was anything but.

Even a draw would have been enough to send the Indonesians through although it initially looked like it might not be their evening as they had to weather some early pressure with Jordan making the brighter start.

Eventually, though, Indonesia got into the contest and, when Rafael Struick was brought down inside the area by a clumsy challenge from Amer Jamous, Marselino Ferdinan seized the opportunity to open the scoring and calm some nerves within his camp with a coolly-dispatched penalty.

Then, they would turn on the style.

Five minutes before the interval, a Jordan foray forward would break down as Indonesia goalkeeper Ernando Ari came off his line to claim a loose ball in his box.

As he bowled the ball out wide to Pratama Arhan, few would have expected that what was to follow would end up being one of the goals of the tournament.

With just six passes, Indonesia would work the ball from left to right, back to front.

Captain Rizky Ridho provided an enterprising charge from his usual defensive outpost through the middle and then followed up with a neat interchange with Marselino just outside the opposition area.

With a visionary slide-rule pass, Rizky would release Witan Sulaeman, who proceeded to bend an exquisite first-time shot into the bottom corner.

Just 15 seconds from when Ernando had the ball in his gloves, the Indonesians had doubled their lead and, in doing so, showed just what they are capable of when in full flight.

That goal was always going to be near impossible to surpass, yet Indonesia somehow almost managed to do so with their third in the 70th minute.

Having had to draw on their usual resilience as Jordan attempted to mount a comeback, Indonesia's first meaningful attack on the second half saw them pull off yet another ingenious team move.

Initially content to be patient in the middle of the park, the Indonesians then picked the perfect moment to spring forward and release Arhan down the left, where his cutback to the edge of the box would then see Marselino play a near-telepathic one-two with Witan before cleverly flicking a deft effort past the onrushing Ahmad Al-Juaidi.

After Jordan pulled one back when Waseem Al-Riyalat's speculative effort took a wicked deflection off Justin Hubner into the back of the net, Indonesia would then give a reminder that -- for all the free-flowing football they are capable of -- they also do have a tried and tested weapon that may not be as pretty but is equally effective.

With another long throw that Jordan just had no answer to all evening long, Arhan would finally land one perfectly on the head of a team-mate, as substitute Komang Teguh -- the hero three days ago against Australia -- ghosted in to head home his second goal in as many games.

Indonesia can now look forward to a glamour quarterfinal tie against either Japan or South Korea, who will do battle for top spot in Group B on Monday.

While both teams may initially have been desperate to avoid hosts Qatar, the alternative is perhaps now not looking such a desirable prospect either, especially given what Indonesia served up against Jordan.

In what is already proving to be a dream U-23 Asian Cup debut, there are bigger goals for Indonesia to aim for.

With the tournament also doubling up as a qualifier for the men's football tournament at the Olympic Games later this year, claiming a top-three finish and booking a ticket to Paris would be quite the fantasy.

There is much work to be done before they can even realistically start thinking about that, and it is likely that Indonesia will continue to be massive underdogs in every game they play from here on in.

Although they should dream big, success for Indonesia may not eventually come in the form of an Olympic berth.

But it has definitely already very much arrived in the way their bright young talent have delivered -- and shone -- on the big stage.