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Looking back - 1996


18-Jul-2012
In our build-up to this year's tournament, affsuzukicup.com takes a trip down memory lane to revisit the previous editions of the Asean Football Championship, beginning with the inaugural tournament in Singapore in 1996.

With one glorious swing of his right boot, the man called ‘Zico’ cemented Thailand’s position as the kings of football in south-east Asia and wrote his name in Asean football lore.

When the Thais entered the inaugural edition of the Asean Football Championship in Singapore in September 1996, they were considered as the team to beat, coming off the back of consecutive gold medals in the South East Asia Games.

But while Thawatchai Satjakul’s side faced some tough tests along the way, they duly lived up to their reputation during an entertaining fortnight of football which produced plenty of goals - 93 in just 24 games - and no shortage of thrills, drama and entertainment.

The most important moment came just nine minutes into the final between Thailand and Malaysia from a talented 23-year-old who would go on to become a true legend of Thai football.

Thailand had dominated possession in the early minutes at the National Stadium with Worrawoot Srimaka testing Malaysian goalkeeper Khairul Azman with a long-range effort. However, there appeared to be little real danger when Kiatisuk ‘Zico’ Senamuang received the ball inside the Malaysian half with two defenders in close attention.

Kiatisuk had already established a reputation as a fearsome attacker and as he bore down on the Malaysian goal, the defenders appeared to show him too much respect as they backed up towards their own box. Their caution would prove fatal as the Thai striker let fly with a right-footed drive from 25 metres which flew past Khairul into the top corner of the net.

That spectacular strike ignited the Thai supporters in the crowd of 32,000 whose cheering shook the foundations of the venerable Kallang stadium to its rafters and Kiatisuk duly celebrated with a spectacular display of his somersaulting ability which would be an all too common sight throughout his prolific playing career.

It proved to be the only goal of an enthralling final which provided the perfect exclamation point to a tournament which had more than lived up to its billing as Asean football’s premier international competition.

For three decades, the SEA Games had been the barometer by which Asean football sides had measured themselves. However, the formation of the Asean Football Federation (AFF) in 1984 had created an impetus for a competition in which the region’s most popular sport would be the primary focus.

With Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam joining founder members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in the AFF in 1996, the Asean Football Championship came into being with a clash between Causeway rivals Singapore and Malaysia at the National Stadium on September 1.

The tournament’s opening match provided a taster for the thrilling action that would follow as legendary Singapore striker Fandi Ahmad headed in a late equaliser to cancel out K. Sanbagamaran’s opening goal for the Tigers in a 1-1 draw.

Fandi, then 34, would plunder three more goals in his only appearance in the Asean Football Championship but he was unable to help the hosts to reach the semi-finals as a goal by Netipong Srithong-in saw the Lions go down 1-0 to Thailand in their final Group B match.

The Thais finished two points ahead of second-placed Malaysia to set up a semi-final clash with Vietnam, who they had routed 4-0 in the SEA Games final in Chiangmai just nine month earlier.

The Vietnamese had recovered from a surprise 1-1 draw with Laos to rout Myanmar 4-1 and hold Indonesia to a 1-1 draw as they finished second in Group A. However, they would prove no match once again for the Thais, who raced into a 3-0 lead by half-time courtesy of Kiatisuk’s third-minute opener and a brace by Netipong, who finished as the tournament’s leading scorer with seven goals. Woorawoot added a fourth early in the second half before the Indochinese side salvaged some pride with a pair of late consolation goals to make the final score 4-2.

Indonesia were favourites to join the Thais in the final after topping Group A with three wins and a draw but they ran into an inspired Malaysian side in the other semi-final.

Little had been expected of the Tigers after they failed to get past the group stage of the 1995 SEA Games but with veteran skipper Zainal Abidin Hassan in sensational form and Sanbagamaran netting goals for fun, they went unbeaten in Group B with draws against Singapore and Thailand and lopsided victories against Brunei and the Philippines.

Sanbagamaran opened the scoring for Wan Jamak Wan Hassan’s side after only three minutes and Rusdee Sulong extended their advantage before an own goal by Azmil Azali reduced the deficit just before half-time. Indonesia attempted to level the score after the interval but Samsurin Abdul Rahman made it 3-1 with 15 minutes left to secure Malaysia’s passage into the final.

Kiatisuk had opened the scoring for Thailand when they drew 1-1 with Malaysia during the group stage and the final followed a similar pattern when the Thai ace struck once again early on in the final. But while the Thais wilted in the second half after dictating proceedings before half-time, they hung on for the narrow 1-0 win that reaffirmed their supremacy in Asean football.

Results:
Group A

Vietnam 3 Cambodia 1
Indonesia 5 Laos 1
Laos 1 Vietnam 1
Myanmar 5 Cambodia 0
Vietnam 4 Myanmar 1
Indonesia 3 Cambodia 0
Cambodia 0 Laos 1
Indonesia 6 Myanmar 1
Indonesia 1 Vietnam 1
Laos 2 Myanmar 4


Group B
Singapore 1 Malaysia 1
Philippines 0 Thailand 5
Malaysia 7 Philippines 0
Singapore 3 Brunei 0
Thailand 6 Brunei 0
Singapore 3 Philippines 0
Brunei 1 Philippines 0
Thailand 1 Malaysia 1
Malaysia 6 Brunei 0
Singapore 0 Thailand 1

Semi-finals
Indonesia 1 Malaysia 3
Thailand 4 Vietnam 2


Third place
Indonesia 2 Vietnam 3

Final
Thailand 1 Malaysia 0