Indonesia qualify for first AFC Asian Cup since 2007, eliminating Philippines in the process

Indonesia made four consecutive AFC Asian Cup appearances between 1996 to 2007 but will feature again at next year's tournament for the first time in 16 years. PSSI

With one final match to go in the third round of qualifiers for AFC Asian Cup 2023 on Tuesday, two teams were still in the running to claim the competition's 24th and final spot -- both from Southeast Asia and looking to complete a quartet of teams from the region at next year's tournament.

The main difference was that one was left nervously sweating over their fate, having been in action more than 15 hours earlier in the day's first game.

The other entered their tie -- the last to be played in the entire qualifying campaign for Asian Cup 2023 -- with their destiny in their own hands.

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In the end, it was the latter that prevailed as Indonesia secured a first Asian Cup appearance since they co-hosted the tournament back in 2007 with a 7-0 victory over Nepal.

Asnawi Mangkualam emerged as a real creative force for Indonesia in the first half, laying on assists for both Dimas Drajad and Witan Sulaeman as they claimed a two-goal lead at the break -- by which time Nepal had already been reduced to ten men following a red card to Suman Aryal.

Buoyed by the numerical advantage, Indonesia continued to dominate proceedings in the second half with Fachrudin Aryanto adding a third in the 54th minute, which was followed only a minute later by Saddil Ramdani netting with a well-controlled volley that snuck just inside the far post.

By this stage, Indonesia were cruising to victory -- and a place at the Asian Cup -- but they refused to take their foot off the pedal.

Centre-back Elkan Baggott popped up to make it 5-0 with ten minutes remaining with an unstoppable 20-yard piledriver, before Indonesia won possession almost straight from Nepal's restart -- with Ricky Kambuaya feeding a neat pass through for Witan to score his second of the evening.

And the rout was completed in the 90th minute when 17-year-old talent Marselino Ferdinan bagged his first senior international goal to round off a memorable, history-making night for the Indonesians.

While the result sealed Indonesia's progress as one of the five best-runners up in the final round of qualifiers, it also meant regional rivals Philippines missed out as the unlucky 6th second-placed team.

The situation was always going to be tricky for the Azkals after they lost 4-0 to Palestine earlier in the day, although the damage was arguably done in last Wednesday's opening 0-0 draw against Yemen -- as they were the only runners-up not to record two victories.

Their failure to qualify for the Asian Cup would also be particularly disappointing for Philippines given they looked to be on the rise having made their tournament debut at the most recent edition in 2019.