The region-wide appeal and reputation of the AFF Suzuki Cup continued to thrive in 2012 with huge crowds and millions of television viewers watching the action and eventual anointing of Singapore as champions for a record fourth time.
The leading eight national teams in ASEAN showcased their skills in 18 drama-filled games that featured 48 goals, ranging from tap-ins to bullet headers.
The tournament, first staged in 1996 and the successor to the Tiger Cup and ASEAN Football Championship, renews old rivalries and unearths new stars in a region transfixed by the beautiful game.
Biennially, the AFF Suzuki Cup intensifies the passion that is felt for the game throughout ASEAN with fans flocking to the stadia in their tens of thousands and generating the unique buzz that characterises football in Southeast Asia.
Singapore won the right to call themselves "ASEAN's best" by lifting the AFF Suzuki Cup with a 3-2 (3-1, 0-1) aggregate victory over Thailand.
The road to the final was rocky with a 1-0 loss to Indonesia in group play sandwiched between a fantastic 3-0 opening win over defending champions Malaysia and a nervy 4-3 victory against minnows Laos.
Khairul Amri scored the only goal of the two-legged semi against the Philippines to steer The Lions into the final against Thailand, who ended Malaysia's campaign with a 3-1 aggregate 3-1 (1-1, 2-0) win.
Coach Radojko Avramovic said that his team deserved to win over the two legs of the final and could rightly claim to be the kings of ASEAN football.
"Why not (call ourselves the best team in the region)," he said after the second leg of the final at a packed Supachalasai Stadium in Bangkok. "I think we deserved the title. We dominated the first game (in Singapore) and scored enough goals to win the title.
"It was a long campaign and in the end the best two teams played the final. I do not think Thailand can be called losers. They tried their best tonight (in Bangkok) and we tried our best in Singapore. We beat them there and they beat us in Bangkok."
The inaugural tournament in Singapore in 1996 proved to be an unforgettable two-week football spectacle, which drew large crowds to the National Stadium with millions more tuning in on television.
Favourites Thailand lifted the trophy after defeating Malaysia 1-0 in a hard-fought final. The foundation had been set for an exciting competition that would continue to grab the attention of fans throughout Southeast Asia.
The passion was even more apparent two years later when the tournament was played in Vietnam. Riding on a wave of national euphoria the hosts swept all before them, trouncing champions Thailand 3-0 to reach the final. The title was to elude Vietnam though as they went down 1-0 to unfancied Singapore in the final in one of the competition's biggest shocks to date.
Thailand reasserted their dominance when they hosted the event for the first time in 2000. With star striker Kiatisuk 'Zico' Senamuang in inspired form, the Thais powered their way to the title, comfortably winning all five games. In the final at Bangkok's Rajamangala Stadium, a hat-trick by Worrawoot Srimaka fired the Thais to a decisive 4-1 win over Indonesia.
The 2002 tournament was more closely contested with the Thais just scraping into the semi-finals after losing 3-1 to Malaysia and drawing 1-1 with Singapore in the group stage. Thailand took a 2-0 half-time lead over hosts Indonesia in the final at the Gelora Bungkarno Stadium in Jakarta. However, the Indonesians battled back to level the score and force the game to a penalty shootout, which Thailand won 4-2.
In their bid for a third straight title in 2004, Thailand fielded the so called 'Young Bloods' but the gamble of relying on youth failed to pay off and the defending champions were eliminated in the group stage in Malaysia. Co-hosts Vietnam also failed to reach the semis that matched Singapore with Myanmar while Malaysia took on Indonesia.
Singapore and Indonesia won through to a dramatic two-legged final with Singapore clinching their second title 5-2 on aggregate (3-1, 2-1) with a couple of top-drawer performances.
Singapore, guided by inspirational coach Avramovic, retained the title in dramatic fashion in early 2007 edging Thailand 3-2 on aggregate in the final.
In 2008, Vietnam tore up the script as they overcame raging favourites Thailand to lift the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time in their history after a dramatic denouement to an enthralling tournament. With three minutes of added time gone in Hanoi's My Dinh Stadium, Vietnam's superstar striker Le Cong Vinh sealed the title with a nod of his highly prized head to send the nation into a frenzy.
The golden goal from the golden boy earned Vietnam a 1-1 draw with Thailand on the night and a 3-2 aggregate victory after their surprise win in the first leg of the final in Bangkok. "I'm feeling overjoyed at the moment," said Vietnam coach Henrique Calisto. "The difference with this team compared to Vietnam sides in the past is that they believe in themselves and they fought all the way until the final whistle."
A youthful Malaysia side were the success story of AFF Suzuki Cup 2010. After their best ever campaign, highlighted by a 2-0 win over Vietnam in the first leg of the semi-final, they beat Indonesia 4-2 on aggregate in the two-legged final to spark an outpouring of joy across a country starved of football success.
"I am very, very, very proud of these young boys because they have done a tremendous job for our country," said coach K. Rajagopal.
The AFF Suzuki Cup was compelling viewing with three-time champions Thailand and Singapore failing to reach the knock-out stages, while qualifiers the Philippines and Laos lit up the tournament with surprising performances.