Indonesia continue rise with progress in World Cup qualifiers the latest achievement

Indonesia are through to the third and final round of Asian qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup for the first time after sealing a top-two finish in Group F with Tuesday's 2-0 victory over Philippines. BAY ISMOYO/AFP via Getty Images

Another box ticked, another achievement unlocked.

As Indonesia continue to go from strength to strength under Shin Tae-Yong, their latest accomplishment is arguably their most significant yet.

On Tuesday, with a 2-0 win over Philippines, the Indonesians went through to the third and final round of Asian qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

They have never before got this far, although they did feature at the 1938 World Cup as the Dutch East Indies -- nearing a century ago when qualification for football's biggest stage was a far-less drawn out process.

In fact, only two Asian teams were in the running back then and, even so, the Dutch East Indies qualified automatically after Japan withdrew.

This time, even just to get to the third round of the Asian qualifiers, Indonesia have had been made to work far more.

In fact, Indonesia were one of the lower-ranked nations that actually began their campaign in the first round last October -- where they comfortably cruised through with a 12-0 aggregate victory over Brunei Darussalam.

Come the second round, the luck of the draw did lend a helping hand to the Indonesians.

While the clear favourites in Group F were Iraq, the fact that Indonesia were also pitted against familiar foes in Vietnam and Philippines meant they always had a chance.

Matches among these Southeast Asian teams are often close contests and, while Vietnam was the region's leading light the last time out -- being the only ASEAN outfit to make the third round of Asian qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup -- the gap has closed significantly.

In comparision, other Southeast Asian hopefuls like Thailand and Singapore always faced a tougher path to progress coming up against traditional powerhouses South Korea and China, while Myanmar were as good as out from the moment they were handed their fate of Japan, Syria and North Korea.

But, for Indonesia, progress was a realistic aim.

In the end, it boiled down to back-to-back ties against Vietnam in March, where Indonesia would prevail 1-0 and 3-0 respectively -- results which would ultimately go a long way in seeing them finish four points clear of their opponents in second place in the group.

Thus continues Indonesia's rise since Shin took over at the helm at the end of 2019.

Earlier this year, they returned to the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 2007 and achieved a maiden knockout round appearance.

Back in April, the U-23 team - also under Shin - remarkably finished fourth in their AFC U-23 Asian Cup debut and then narrowly missed out on Olympic qualification after losing a intercontinental playoff against Guinea.

Last year, the U23s had already claimed the Southeast Asian Games gold medal for the first time since the men's football competition transitioned from a senior to age-group tournament.

Come the end of 2024, Indonesia could even have more joy as they look a genuine chance to win a maiden ASEAN Championship crown following the previous heartbreak of six runners-up finishes.

Of course, the biggest dream remains qualifying for the World Cup.

Indonesia will be under no illusions -- that goal, for now, is closer to being a dream rather than a distinct possibility.

They will face far tougher tests in the third round of Asian qualifiers. Even if there are now eight automatic spots on offer following the World Cup's expansion to 48 teams, a dozen or so teams loom as likelier contenders -- even if usual suspects like Japan, South Korea and Iran are removed from the equation.

Progress, however, can come in many forms. Not solely with reaching the next World Cup as the be all and end all.

Competitive displays against superior opposition could also be the yardstick.

The fact of the matter remains that, having already gotten this far and for all they have shown in recent times, Indonesia are -- well and truly -- firmly on the rise.