Can naturalised players help Indonesia overcome rivals Malaysia and Thailand?

Indonesia will be up against familiar foes as they look to take one step further in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Asian qualifying process. Tim Garuda will have the experience and pedigree of four naturalised players to call upon, a quartet which head coach Simon McMenemy will hope to rely upon. 

A double-header against their Southeast Asian opponents awaits Indonesia, as Team Garuda begin their FIFA World Cup second round qualification process. Among those called up to the senior squad are four naturalised players – Victor Igbonefo, Stefano Lilipaly, Beto Goncalves, and Osas Saha. Originally, Greg Nwokolo and Otavio Dutra were also expected to be included, however, the former was ruled out with an injury while the latter didn’t receive clearance on his naturalization process.

We take a look at how the four selected can help their side get an edge over their opponents.

Victor Igbonefo

Nigerian-born Victor Igbonefo arrived in Indonesia back in 2005, aged just eighteen. The defender joined Persipura Jayapura, with whom he stayed for the next six years, developing into a key first-team player while also winning the Liga Indonesia. From then on, Igbonefo has gone on to play in both Indonesia and Thailand, gaining invaluable experience along the way.

The defender underwent the naturalization process back in 2011 and has played or Indonesia ten times since making his debut in 2013. Igbonefo is expected to go straight into the starting XI under McMenemy and provide steel in defence as they look to get the better of their rivals.

Stefano Lilipaly

A regular for Indonesia at this point, Stefano Lilipaly was unsurprisingly named in the final twenty-three for Team Garuda’s double-header against Malaysia and Thailand. The Dutch-born winger was granted Indonesian citizenship in 2011 and has been a constant in the national team since.

Lilipaly plays out wide usually, supporting the striker ahead of him- a position he is almost certain to retain during Indonesia’s first match against Malaysia. However, the winger has been short of goals for the national team, with all three of his strikes coming during two separate additions of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Beto Goncalves 

38-year-old Beto Goncalves is one of the most experienced players in Southeast Asia, let alone Indonesia. The Brazil-born forward has had a playing career spanning over twenty years and is currently playing for his twentieth club.

Despite his age, PSSI decided to naturalise Beto in 2018, and the forward in exchange has provided good returns. The Madura United man has eight goals for Timnas Garuda in eight matches so far, five of which have come in his two appearances this year.

The forward is expected to play some part in the upcoming games against Thailand and Malaysia, although it remains to be seen whether he is given the nod from the start.

Osas Saha

One of the newcomers in the Indonesian setup, big things are expected from forward Osas Saha. The 32-year-old came to Indonesia back in 2009 and since then, has played for eleven clubs in the country.

Everywhere Saha has gone, he ha scored goals, and so it came as of no surprise when PSSI decided to start the naturalization process for the Nigerian-born forward, making him eligible in time for the World Cup qualifiers.

Saha is expected to make his debut for Tim Garuda in the upcoming set of matches, although he is likely to be placed on the bench by Simon McMenemy, with several other more established options at his disposal.