- Associated Press - Monday, June 15, 2015

SINGAPORE (AP) - Aji Santoso couldn’t stifle a laugh when he was asked about Indonesia’s prospects for the next Southeast Asian Games. As of full-time in a 5-0 loss to Vietnam on Monday in the bronze medal match at the regional mini-Olympic event, Indonesia was banned from all international football competition.

The SEA Games tournament had already started when FIFA suspended Indonesia from international competition because of political interference in the running of the game, so the under-23 squad was allowed to continue in Singapore - under even more intense scrutiny than usual.

It didn’t help Santoso’s cause. After a surge of optimism as Indonesia qualified for the semifinals, the international suspension went into full effect following deflating, back-to-back 5-0 losses to eventual champion Thailand and Vietnam.

Vietnam had the bronze medal wrapped up before halftime Monday, racing to a 4-0 lead.

“As coach I take all the responsibility with the result in the SEA Games,” Santoso said. “It was very difficult to improve the mentality of the players after the match against Thailand, it still had an influence with the play against Vietnam.”

Santoso said it was very difficult for the players not to think about the FIFA ban and it was normal that the external issues would have an impact on the team’s performance.

“Mentally it had a big influence,” he said. “Very, very disappointing for the players - they don’t understand what they must do after this event.”

There’s no time limit on the FIFA sanction. The full national squad has already been scrubbed out of Asian qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. The ban extends to national teams, domestic clubs and officials. Santoso and the team management in Singapore were hopeful that a meeting next week between government officials and the national football federation would be able to resolve the domestic issues and come up with a compromise agreement to take to the sport’s international governing body in the hope of being re-admitted to competition.

Santoso, a former national team player and caretaker coach of the country’s top team, said Indonesia’s footballers needed to remain positive despite the two recent defeats.

Indonesia was never really in the match for the bronze medal after Hasamu Pranata was penalized for a handball in the area in the 13th minute and Vietnam forward Mac Hong Quan glided his shot from the spot to the left of goalkeeper Amiruddin Teguh.

Vo Huy Toan scored in the 21st and 41st minutes with powerful left-foot strikes, and Nguyen Nuu Dung’s half-volley as he ran toward goal in first-half stoppage time made it 4-0.

Vietnam captain Que Ngoc Hai deflected Do Duy Manh’s volley past Amirduddin in the 71st to round off the scoring.

Thailand won its 15th SEA Games title later Monday with a 3-0 win over Myanmar.

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