Indonesia just run out of steam but can look back on captivating Olympic quest with pride

Indonesia have narrowly missed out on a first appearance in the Olympic men's football tournament since 1956 after losing 1-0 to Guinea in Thursday's intercontinental playoff for the final spot at the upcoming Paris Games. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images

In a whirlwind journey that started almost a month ago and proved to be an intense and arduous campaign, Indonesia just came up short in the end.

A quest to end a 68-year wait to return to the Olympic men's football tournament was 90 minutes -- and one win -- away from being completed.

But with their legs heavy and minds weary -- understandably so given the exertions of the past three and a half weeks, where they had already surpassed all expectations -- Indonesia were unable to get across the finish line.

On Thursday, they narrowly lost 1-0 to Guinea in an intercontinental playoff for the final spot at the Olympic Games later this year, falling to Ilaix Moriba's 29th-minute penalty.

Ultimately, based on how the playoff panned out, Guinea were perhaps deserving of their ticket to Paris later this year.

Yet, that should not take away from what Indonesia have achieved since they produced a brilliant debut campaign at the AFC U-23 Asian Cup, which ended with a fourth-place finish that kept them in the running to reach the Olympics even if they missed out on the three automatic berths up for grabs at the tournament.

Their exertions at the U-23 Asian Cup, which saw them pull off some major upsets over Australia, Jordan and South Korea, undoubtedly took its toll.

Only six days separated their last outing in Qatar, where they lost to Iraq in the U-23 Asian Cup third place match, and Thursday's meeting with Guinea in France.

On the contrary, Guinea had already earned their place in the intercontinental qualifier a year ago.

Their last outing was back in March and, while they might have been a little rusty, they looked fitter and fresher.

Guinea's quality also has to be acknowledged.

In Moriba, they have a former Barcelona starlet who is currently featuring regularly in LaLiga with Getafe while on loan from Bundesliga giants RB Leipzig, while numerous others are on the books of recognisable European clubs -- such as Olympiakos striker Algassime Bah.

Indonesia do have a few of their own but they were without two key players in suspended captain Rizky Ridho and fellow defensive lynchpin Justin Hubner, who was recalled for club duty by J1 League outfit Cerezo Osaka.

It was clear how much this would have meant for Indonesian football, which is only enjoying a resurgence in the past few years after being down in the doldrums for a decade -- including twice being handed FIFA suspensions from international football.

When Guinea were awarded a second penalty -- this time, a contentious call as Alfeandra Dewangga looked to have nicked the ball with his sliding challenge on Bah -- Indonesia coach Shin Tae-Yong was so irate that he got sent off for dissent after picking up two yellow cards in a matter of seconds while unleashing his fury right in the face of referee Francois Letexier.

Justice looked to have been served when Bah drilled the resultant spot-kick off the foot of the post but it would be inconsequential in the end.

Indonesia just failed to find the verve that had captured the imagination of many during their U-23 Asian Cup run.

The torpedo-like long throws from Pratama Arhan that proved a real weapon over the past three weeks fell a bit short on Thursday.

The jinking runs and interchange of play from Marselino Ferdinan and Witan Sulaeman just looked a little laboured.

Indonesia just ran out of steam in the end, and perhaps they are almost there but not quite yet in their bid to be a team good enough to feature at the Olympics.

That should take nothing away from what they have achieved in recent times.

When they look back on their dreamy quest that had an entire nation daring to believe for a while, Indonesia should do so with plenty of pride -- even if they are not returning to Paris later this year.