Two years ago Indonesia were written off by many as being long-shots to progress from the group stage on their return to international football but things are vastly different in 2018.

Following a fairytale run all the way to the final in 2016, where they eventually lost to Thailand, expectations are for a repeat of that top two finish at a bare minimum.

One of the stars of the last tournament was creative midfielder Stefano Lilipaly and he’s all too aware of the constant pressure and expectation that comes with playing for one of Southeast Asia’s most passionate football nations.

“For sure, people in Indonesia always have high expectations of us and we definitely do too but the feeling here from the supporters is that once you reach a certain level you have to do it again.

“People get used to that feeling of success after we reached the final last time and that’s the mindset to do it again this year too.”

Having scored the crucial late goal in Indonesia’s final group stage match against Singapore and then another key strike in the semifinal win over Vietnam, Lilipaly recalls the 2016 Suzuki Cup as the highlight of his career but he isn’t getting stuck in the past.

“That was my first big tournament and it was a new beginning for Indonesian football with new players, many that hadn’t played together before and we surprised everybody by making the final but we’re now focused on continuing to improve and raise the level of Indonesian football and showing again that team bond and spirit.”

Many would have expected that after they finished as runners-up last time out that Indonesia would have been one of the top two seeds for next month’s draw but with Thailand and Vietnam in Pot One it means they’ll join Malaysia in the second pot and the team is also using that snub as a spur for success.

“For us, it’s good that happened because it only gives us more motivation to surprise everybody once again.

“One thing is for sure and that’s nobody is going to want to play Indonesia, especially at our home in the new Gelora Bung Karno, we have experience, very good young players and a lot of quality so teams are going to have to be at their best to beat us.”