Indonesia want to dethrone water polo kingpins Singapore
Twice runners-up Indonesia confident of ending Singapore's water polo dominance
Indonesia, runners-up to Singapore in 2011 and 2013, are confident they can end the hosts' dominance of men's water polo at the SEA Games.
Singapore have won the water polo gold since the sport made its debut at the biennial event (then known as the South-east Asian Peninsular Games) in 1965.
Asked if they were capable of overcoming Singapore, captain Rezza Auditya Putra and head coach Calvin Legawa were in no doubt.
"Our target is the gold medal," said Putra, 25, after his side trounced the Philippines 22-6 at the OCBC Aquatic Centre yesterday.
"We are confident, and we hope we can do it because this is Singapore's home."
Legawa has been Indonesia's coach since 2007, and he, too, believes they can pull off the upset.
Revealing that they have markedly improved since 2013, the 45-year-old said: "We are now much, much better compared to the previous team, because 70 per cent are seniors.
"They have had experience in the SEA Games, and are much better prepared than in 2013.
"We are going to try our best from the very beginning, and we cannot give them the chance to execute their game plan."
The highly anticipated Indonesia-Singapore match, which will likely decide who tops the table and wins gold, is scheduled for Tuesday - the final day of the Games.
And Legawa is sure it will be a close fight. "Both teams are in very good shape right now," he said.
"Hopefully, our players will not be nervous about playing on their opponents' home ground.
"If they play as they are told and as they have trained, then we will become the new champions."
The Philippines were more modest about their ambitions.
Reynaldo Galang, their head coach, does not think his charges will fare much better against Singapore on Sunday.
Describing Singapore as a "given" for one of the top two spots, Galang, 50, said: "Our target is a bronze medal, and we need to beat two teams to get the bronze.
"Indonesia and Singapore are too strong, but I hope we have a good chance against Malaysia and Thailand."
The Philippines were fourth at the 2011 Games in Palembang, and did not participate in 2013 in Myanmar.
Referring to Singapore's 19-4 triumph over Malaysia earlier yesterday, Galang added: "I don't think we can beat Singapore, based on what I saw this morning.
"Singapore also have a good combination of experienced and young players who have made the transition into the team well."
Good start, but could be better
They have won the men's water polo gold 25 times in a row and the Singapore's men are in no mood to end their stranglehold, especially in home waters.
They opened their SEA Games campaign yesterday with a routine 19-4 win over Malaysia at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
The consensus among the players was that they could have played "much better".
Said goalkeeper Nigel Tay (below, in red cap): "There were a few defensive lapses here and there that cost us a couple of goals.
"But I think our team is strong in terms of technique, fitness and tactics, so that was what brought us through the game."
Singapore started strongly, scoring six goals and conceding none in the first quarter.
After the two teams exchanged a goal each, the hosts went into overdrive to extend their lead.
While coach and former national player Lee Sai Meng, 38, was happy with the win, he reckoned that his charges were probably a little nervous competing on home ground.
"It takes a bit of getting used, to and today is only the first game," said Lee. "I think they have to be sharper for the next game, especially when it comes to finishing."
This is the fifth Games for Tay and he is accustomed to the pressure of being the defending champions.
The 27-year-old doctor said: "I don't really feel any pressure any more.
"I am playing for the love of the sport and for my country and, since we are playing on home ground, for my family as well.
"It's great having your family and friends around to watch you, and I really feel very comfortable."