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Looking back - 2002

Continuing our series on previous editions of the AFF Suzuki Cup, we go back to 2002 when the final between Thailand and Indonesia was decided by a penalty shootout.

There was a sense of déjà vu when Thailand and Indonesia clashed in the Asean Football Championship final in 2002. Just two years earlier, the two sides had met in the deciding match at the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok with the Thais emerging as convincing 4-1 winners to the delight of the home fans.

But at a packed Gelora Bungkarno Stadium in Jakarta, Peter Withe's side were given a much sterner test as they had a man sent off and threw away a two-goal lead in a match that eventually went down to penalties.

Having held on for over an hour with 10 men after the dismissal of Chukiat Noosalung, the Thais began the shootout in the worst possible way when their captain and talisman Kiatisuk Senamuang missed the opening spot-kick.

But nerves got to the Indonesians as Sugiyantoro hit the crossbar and Firmansyah fired his effort wide to give Dusit Chalermsan the chance to win it for the hosts. And the veteran defender duly obliged by confidently chipping the ball down the middle past goalkeeper Hendro Kartiko to seal Thailand's second consecutive victory in the competition and their third title in four attempts.

It was a victory that solidified Thailand's position as the top football side in South-East Asia but after their stroll to the title two years earlier, the tense 2002 final encapsulated the tough challenges that they had to overcome to become the first team to retain the Asean Football Championship.

"We still had many of the players who had won the tournament in 2000 but we were all getting older," says Surachai Jaturapattarapong, who skippered the side in 2000 but played only a limited role in the defence of the title.

"I had wanted to retire but we had a lot of injuries and so I remained with the team. It was a difficult tournament because we didn't have a lot of time to prepare but we pulled together at the last moment and did well.

"It was an important moment in our lives because we had a lot of our experienced players coming out to play together for the last time. In some games, we didn't play for the whole 90 minutes as we were not still physically strong but we were still strong mentally."

Withe had been given plenty of time to prepare his side in 2000 as well as the benefit of seeing his side in competitive action at the Asian Cup just weeks before the start of the Asean tournament.

But it was a different story two years later as the squad was assembled in the midst of the Thai league season, just two weeks before the competition kicked off in December 2002.

For the first time, the group stage of the Asean Football Championship was held in two different countries with Indonesia and Singapore each hosting a group. The Thais were placed in Group B in Singapore and despite their poor preparations, they began their campaign in spectacular fashion with Worrawoot Srimaka, their hat-trick hero in the 2000 final, picking up where he had left off by scoring in the first minute of their opening game against Laos.

The Thais eventually romped to a 5-1 win with Kiatisuk bagging a hat-trick but it was a flattering result in a disjointed performance by the defending champions.

"The best thing in our performance today was the goals," said Withe after the match. "Frankly if Laos had our finishing, they would have scored a lot more."

The Englishman expected an improved performance in their second match against Malaysia but the opposite happened as the Tigers ran out convincing winners. Therdsak Chaiman put Thailand ahead with a free-kick but Allan Harris' young side, who had stunned Singapore 4-0 in their opener, levelled on the stroke of half-time through Akmal Rizal Rakhli before second-half strikes by Tengku Hazman Hassan and Indra Putra Mahayuddin gave them a 3-1 win.

With Malaysia securing their passage with the win, the battle for the other semi-final spot went down to the final game between Thailand and Singapore with the Thais needing only a draw to progress.

It started well for the Thais as a cross by right-back Phaitoon Thiabma was headed home by Worrawoot after 15 minutes and they had another Worrawoot goal disallowed and were denied a penalty when Sutee Suksomkit was brought down by S. Subramani.

But just before half-time, Singapore equalised after Noor Ali had run on to Subramani's through pass and rounded goalkeeper Kittisak Rawangpa to score and the hosts turned up the pressure in the second half in their search for a winner. However, the heavy pitch conditions at the National Stadium made it difficult to string passes together and maintain possession and the Thais were able to survive when the hosts were denied a penalty near the end of the game after a goal-bound shot had appeared to be blocked by the arm of Thai defender.

"What matters is that we've gone into the semi-finals," said a relieved Withe. "We're just getting into gear, and now have a few more days to prepare before the semi-finals. We'll get better as we progress."

Those fighting words were borne out when the team moved to Jakarta for their semi-final against Vietnam, who had topped Group A after convincing victories over Cambodia, Philippines and Myanmar and a 2-2 draw with Indonesia.

The Vietnamese were the form team heading into the match and had beaten the Thais 3-0 in their last meeting in the 1998 semi-finals. But they struggled to cope with the size and strength of Worrawoot in a surprisingly one-sided contest.

The big striker opened the scoring after 24 minutes and then knocked the ball down for Narongchai Vachiraban to make it 2-0 just before half-time. He had to be replaced in the second half after suffering an injury but late goals by Manit Noyvach and Sakda Joemdee sealed a memorable 4-0 win.

The second semi-final saw Malaysia take on an Indonesian side which had laboured through its first three group matches, drawing with Myanmar and Vietnam and beating Cambodia 4-2 after twice trailing. It had left the co-hosts needing to beat Philippines by at least nine goals in their final group game to be sure of advancing but they got the job done as they demolished the Azkals 13-1 with four goals each by Bambang Pamungkas and Zaenal Arif.

Malaysia proved much tougher opponents but the home side edged to a narrow win thanks to Bambang, who headed home a cross from the right by Zaenal in the 75th minute.

It set up another final against the Thais, who were feeling much more confident after their emphatic win against the Vietnamese.

"We were gaining momentum as we got closer to the final and we were very confident that we could retain our title," says playmaker Thersdsak.

"Of course, it was a difficult game in the final because they had 100,000 supporters there but we started well and we took a 2-0 lead at half-time. Chukiat headed in my free-kick and then Worrawoot headed down a cross for me to score the second goal.

"We were playing very well but we allowed them to get back into the game in the second half by conceding an early goal and having a man sent off."

Jaris Riyardi reduced the arrears a minute after the interval and Chukiat was dismissed in the 57th minute for elbowing Gendut Christiawan who had been tugging his shirt. Sustained Indonesian pressure finally paid off in the 79th minute when Imran Nahumaray slipped the ball through for Gendut Doni Christiawan to first past beat Kittisak.

The Indonesians had the better chances in the remaining minutes and extra-time but their nerve failed them in the shootout as the Thais again lifted the trophy.

"I think that we had our dream team in 2000 and we fully deserved to win on home soil," says Therdsak, who was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

"But we faced a lot of adversity in 2002 and we had to win some tough matches away from Thailand to claim the trophy again. So winning that tournament felt very sweet and we went into the record books by doing that."


Group A (Jakarta)
Indonesia 0 Myanmar 0
Vietnam 9 Cambodia 2
Philippines 1 Myanmar 6
Cambodia 2 Indonesia 4
Myanmar 5 Cambodia 0
Vietnam 4 Philippines 1
Cambodia 1 Philippines 0
Indonesia 2 Vietnam 2
Myanmar 2 Vietnam 4
Philippines 1 Indonesia 13

Group B (Singapore)
Thailand 5 Laos 1
Singapore 0 Malaysia 4
Malaysia 3 Thailand 1
Singapore 2 Laos 1
Malaysia 1 Laos 1
Singapore 1 Thailand 1

Semi-finals (Jakarta)
Vietnam 0 Thailand 4
Indonesia 1 Malaysia 0

Third-place (Jakarta)
Vietnam 2 Malaysia 1

Indonesia 2 Thailand 2 (Thailand won 4-2 on penalties)