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Looking back - 2000


25-Jul-2012
Continuing our review of past editions of the AFF Suzuki Cup, we revisit the 2000 tournament in Thailand which was completely dominated by the hosts..

In 2000, Thailand reasserted their dominance of South-East Asian Football by winning the third edition of the Asean Football Championship in emphatic fashion.

Playing on home soil, Peter Withe's side swept all before them on their march to the title, becoming the first and, so far, only team to win all of their games in a single edition. They netted 15 goals and conceded only three in five games and completed the job with a 4-1 demolition of Indonesia in the final.

That decisive victory came just two years after one of Thailand's most embarrassing outings on the international stage at the 1998 Asean Football Championship, which they entered as defending champions but left with their tails between their legs.

The team coached by Witthaya Laohakul was riven by internal conflict and drew plenty of scorn after they were involved in a farcical group game against Indonesia which neither team made much of an attempt to win and was eventually settled by a deliberate own goal by an Indonesian defender. They were subsequently handed a chastening 3-0 defeat by hosts Vietnam in the semi-finals which many observers felt was richly deserved.

Surachai Jaturapattarapong, who played for Thailand in both the 1998 and 2000 campaigns and captained the side in the latter, draws a sharp distinction between those two teams.

"We had a lot of problems with our team in 1998. At that time, we lacked unity and we had a bit of politics in the squad which affected us before we played out games," the midfielder told affsuzukicup.com.

"We were missing some of our important players at that tournament because Zico (Kiatisuk Senamuang), Tawan (Sripan) and Dusit (Chalermsan) didn't play and we had some problems between the management and the players and the Thai FA as well.

"But in 2000, all of our key players had come back and we had sorted out our problems with the management so everything was easy for us in that tournament."

In addition to the returning players, there was also a different man in charge of the 2000 team with Withe coming in to replace Witthaya as head coach shortly after the disappointing outing in Vietnam. The Englishman proved to be a big hit as he led the Thais to fourth place in the Asian Games in Bangkok in late 1998, a South-East Asia Games gold medal in Brunei the following year and an appearance in the 2000 Asian Cup in Lebanon.

"He was a very good coach to work with as he knew exactly how to train us for the games," says Surachai of Withe. "He worked on our tactics, gave us some ideas of how to play the game and decided on our starting line-up but he left it to the players to go out there and get the job done."

The 2000 Asian Cup, which took place less than a month before the start of the Asean Football Championship, may have been a disappointment for the Thais as they failed to reach the quarter-finals after losing 2-0 to Iraq in their opening game and drawing 1-1 with both Iran and the hosts. But the first round exit in Lebanon did have a positive effect on the Thais as it helped them to resolve their selection issues ahead of the Asean tournament.

"We did quite well at the Asian Cup although we didn't qualify for the quarter-finals. We lost to Iraq in our first game but then we played well against Iran and Lebanon and we should have won those games," says Surachai.

"The main problem was that we had a lot of good players so it was difficult to decide our best starting 11. At the Asian Cup, Peter Withe made adjustments to the starting line-up based on the strategy that was required for each game but there was a lot of confusion at that time.

"However, after the games against Iran and Lebanon, we had a clear idea of our most effective line-up and formation."

Following their return from the Middle East, the Thais held a short training camp in Bangkok, where they were joined by Kiatisuk, who had missed the Asian Cup because of his club commitments at English side Huddersfield.

Drawn in Group A, the team travelled north to Chiangmai and began their campaign with a 3-1 win over Myanmar. They then met Indonesia in a rematch of their infamous clash from two years earlier but easily prevailed on that occasion as they won 4-1 thanks to a brace by Worrawoot Srimaka and a goal each by Kiatisuk and Dusit.

The win sealed their place in the semi-finals with a game to spare and they maintained their perfect record with a 2-0 win over the Philippines, although the match was marred by the dismissal of Worrawoot, who was shown the red card in the first half for elbowing a Filipino defender.

Group A proved fairly straightforward with Indonesia taking second place after a 5-0 thrashing of Myanmar in their final game. However, Group B in Songkhla proved to be more competitive with defending champions Singapore battling with Vietnam and Malaysia for the two semi-final spots.

It eventually came down to the final two rounds of matches when Singapore faced both of their two main rivals needing a win in one of those games to advance to the last four. But while the Lions showed plenty of spirit and endeavour, the failure to take advantage of their chances in both games, including a missed penalty by Zulkarnaen Zainal against the Malaysians, ultimately proved costly as they suffered narrow 1-0 defeats in both games to bow out early.

The Vietnamese topped Group B on goal difference to set up an exciting clash against Indonesia in the semi-finals at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok. The Indonesians twice took the lead with goals by Gendut Christiawan and Uston Nawawi only to be pegged back by Nguyen Hong Son and Nguyen Duc Thang, who forced extra-time with Vietnam's second equaliser in the final minute.

But with a penalty shootout looming, Gendut struck again in the last minute of stoppage time to give Indonesia the only sudden-death ‘golden goal' victory in the competition's history and a spot in the final for the first time.

The other semi-final proved to be more of a formality as the Thais made light of the suspension of Worrawoot to beat Malaysia 2-0 with first-half goals by Kiatisuk and Tawan.

Having won all of their games on their run to the final, Thailand entered that match in confident mood.

"The final against Indonesia was not that easy but as with every game in that tournament, we were extremely confident. We had a strong understanding amongst ourselves, we knew how to play with each other and we knew what we had to do to beat the other team," says Surachai.

The team's confidence was not misplaced as Worrawoot returned from suspension to once again wreak havoc on the Indonesians. Within 18 minutes, the big striker had scored twice, heading in a cross by Thanongsak Pajakkat and then firing home from 12 metres after latching on to Tawan Sripan's through ball.

Uston Nawawi pulled a goal back from a free-kick in the 19th minute but the writing was on the wall when Worrawoot completed his hat-trick by heading in a corner by Tawan in the 32nd minute. It was his fifth goal of the tournament as he earned a share of the Golden Boot with Gendut.

Thanongsak fired a low shot past goalkeeper Hendro Kartiko from the edge of the area midway through the second half to seal the win which made Thailand the first home side to lift the Asean Football Championship trophy.

"We had a very good group of players at that time who had a very strong mentality so we had plenty of confidence before every game that we played. It was a very good team and we felt that we could win every game that we played," says Surachai of that team.

"In my opinion, it was the best Thailand side that I was a part of."

Results

Group A (Chiangmai)
Indonesia 3 Philippines 0
Thailand 3 Myanmar 1
Myanmar 3 Philippines 0
Thailand 4 Indonesia 1
Indonesia 5 Myanmar 0
Thailand 2 Philippines 0

Group B (Songkhla)
Singapore 1 Cambodia 0
Malaysia 0 Vietnam 0
Malaysia 5 Laos 0
Vietnam 6 Cambodia 0
Malaysia 3 Cambodia 2
Singapore 3 Laos 0
Cambodia 3 Laos 0
Vietnam 1 Singapore 0
Singapore 0 Malaysia 1
Vietnam 5 Laos 0

Semi-finals (Bangkok)
Vietnam 2 Indonesia 3
Thailand 2 Malaysia 0

Third place match
Malaysia 3 Vietnam 0

Final (Bangkok)
Thailand 4 Indonesia 1