Indonesia’s assistant coach Bima Sakti has admitted the Garuda have been drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ for the AFF Suzuki Cup after being placed alongside Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and the winner of the play-off between Timor-Leste and Brunei Darussalam.

The draw from the competition was held in Jakarta on Wednesday and saw 2016 runners-up Indonesia tasked with the same teams they met in the group stage two years ago when they ultimately advanced before losing to Thailand in the final.

Regional powerhouse Thailand have won the last two AFF Suzuki Cups while the Philippines showcased their recent improvement by qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup for the first time. Singapore, meanwhile, have won the competition four times and will target a return to the semi-finals after missing out two years ago.

“I was really nervous when watching the draw and in my opinion this is the ‘Group of Death’ so we are going to need to prepare really well,” admitted Bima.

“Of course Thailand are defending champions and we will play our second away game in Thailand so we need to be ready because they are very good in front of their own fans.

“But Indonesia has a big chance and we want to qualify for the semi-finals like we did two years ago and hopefully become champions for the first time.”

It was strong performances against Singapore and the Philippines in 2016 that ultimately saw Indonesia progress to their first semi-final since 2010 as a 2-2 draw with the former was followed by a 2-1 victory over the latter.

The Garuda then overcame Vietnam over two legs in the semi-final and the fine overall showing will raise expectation across the nation that the current side can claim the title for the first time.

Perhaps crucial to the team’s preparation will be how a team largely comprising U-23 players perform at the Asian Games in Indonesia in August and September in what promises to be an exciting second half of 2018 for the side. 

“I talked with [head coach] Luis Milla and we said we must use the U-23 players because they have been playing together for a long time and have made really good progress,” added Bima.

“Maybe we will also include senior players who we scout from Liga 1 because they can still make a big contribution to the national team.

“But the Asian Games will be the benchmark for the Suzuki Cup and help us prepare for the tournament.”