Indonesia feature in Qatar 2022 qualifying as AFC matches resume next week
Midfielder Evan Dimas eyeing victories despite early elimination
Playmaker has drawn inspiration from Spanish idol Andres Iniesta
Indonesia's Evan Dimas is all too aware that his team’s hopes of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar™ have already been extinguished. But AFC Asian Cup qualification is still on the cards and a fresh approach means reason for optimism when action resumes next week.
With five straight losses, the Southeast Asians can no longer finish top two in a fascinating group which also features Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and United Arab Emirates. The disappointing results not only cost coach Simon McMenemy his job, but also dented the team's confidence.
The new boss in charge is none other than former Shin Taeyong, who guided Korea Republic to a famous 2-0 defeat of world champions Germany at Russia 2018. With the memory of that amazing victory still fresh in mind, Dimas is hoping that Indonesia can produce similar heroics under Taeyong.
"Coach Shin took Korea Republic to great results so it is an honour to be coached by him," the 26-year-old Dimas told FIFA.com. "I will give my all in training and on the field under his guidance."
With the remaining Group G fixtures to be staged in United Arab Emirates, Indonesia will tackle Thailand on Thursday, before crossing swords with leaders Vietnam four days later. Awaiting them in the closing match are the hosts, who will pose a formidable final hurdle. Despite the uphill tasks, though, Dimas is hungry to regain some lost pride.
"We failed to show our best in the previous games but with three games left, I hope we can get positive results," he said. "Every game gives you the choice and I will choose to do my best to defend our pride. So we have to win these matches."
Standing at 167cm tall, the skilful Dimas is one of the best midfielders Indonesia has seen over recent years. Signed by Persebaya Surabaya as a teenager, Dimas was presented with a rare chance to hone his skills in Spain.
"I was selected by a youth program and sent to train in Spain in 2011. I worked hard as I was aware that I was representing Indonesia," he recalled.
The early overseas tour opened Dimas’s eyes to what was possible in the game, and he returned to Spain in 2016 spending four months training with the likes of UE Llagostera and RCD Espanyol.
"I gained a lot of experiences there which helped me understand the game and I learnt new knowledge about the game. Everything there is very different [from Indonesia].
"I started from scratch like passing and possessing. For instance, in Indonesia our passes are slow but in Spain they make hard and fast passes. From there, my playing style has changed."
It was during his time in Spain that Dimas became a fervent admirer of Spanish midfield maestro Andres Iniesta. "He [Iniesta] is an inspiring figure for us. The first thing I like him is that he always keeps a low-key profile but on the pitch, he is outstanding. With him as our idol, we can always work hard to improve our own game."
As it turned out, Dimas returned home a different player. He exploded onto the Asian scene during 2014 AFC U-19 Championship qualifiers scoring five times, notably striking a hat-trick in a 3-2 defeat of Korea Republic to fire Indonesia to the continental finals.
The following year made his senior international debut in a 5-1 victory against Laos in the 2014 AFF Championship, scoring one as well as providing an assist. He would go on to represent country in three Southeast Asian Games including helping Indonesia to the silver medal in the 2019 edition.
Indonesia may be out in the race for Qatar 2022 but, with the campaign doubling as qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup, hopes of a place in the continental finals are still alive and stand-alone qualifiers are scheduled for later this year.
"Indonesia football has made significant progress these [past few] years and I hope we can maintain the momentum. We want to showcase our improvements in the next [qualifying] matches."