Despite being known as the "Kingdom of Badminton," Indonesia has begun to accept and follow football with the most dedicated of Asian nations. One of the few teams in Southeast Asia who are able to challenge Thailand, the runners-up in the 2002 Tiger Cup are still not powerful enough to compete with the top teams in Asia for a FIFA World Cup™ berth.
Drawn into Group 9 with China PR, Maldives and Cambodia in the first qualifying round for Korea/Japan 2002, Indonesia won all their group games but their two encounters against China, losing 5-1 away and 2-0 at home. Despite that disappointment, Indonesia went to the final of the last Tiger Cup, the most popular regional football tournament in South East Asia. They came from two goals behind against regional powerhouses, Thailand, and only fell in a penalty shootout.
The team have no shortage of attacking power with 2002 Tiger Cup top scorer Bambang Pamungkas, who had a spell with EHC Norad in Holland, and his skilful partner Budi Sudarsono. The striking duo proved pivotal in the recent 2007 AFC Asian Cup when the team pulled off a sensational 2-1 opening victory against Bahrain as co-hosts, with each scoring a goal in either half.
But, as a team, they were obviously not as technically and tactically astute as their group rivals Saudi Arabia, at the hands of whom they suffered a 2-1 reverse. A solitary-goal defeat to Korea Republic in the last match saw them crash out after the group stage, leaving the fans lamenting the chances they squandered in front of goal.
Under Bulgarian coach Ivan Venkov Kolev, who took over in January 2007 from Englishman Peter Withe, the team entered the qualifying campaign for South Africa seeking to extend their regional dominance into the continental stage. However, a lack of competitive games in the run-up saw the team disappoint again, losing their two-legged tie against Syria in the qualifying second round by an astonishing 11-1 aggregate to bring an end their campaign.