Thailand successfully defended their crown at the ASEAN Football Championship in 2002 but it was no stroll in the park for the tournament favourites as their fallibility was exposed at both the group stage and in the final.

The tournament, with the group games being played in two different countries (Indonesia and Singapore) for the first time, started well enough for Thailand as their hat-trick hero from the 2000 final – striker Worrawoot Srimaka – hit the target after just one minute of their opening match against Laos.

Thais tested

They went on to record a 5-1 victory before being brought back to earth with a thump by Malaysia, who triumphed 3-1 in the second Group B game. With Indra Putra Mahayuddin in tremendous goal scoring form, Malaysia had beaten co-hosts Singapore 4-0 in their opening encounter and their win over Thailand assured them of a semi-final spot.

That left Thailand and Singapore to fight for the other place in the last four with the defending champions in the box seat as their superior goal difference meant they only needed a draw to progress.

That man Worrawoot popped up again to put Thailand in the lead after 15 minutes but battling Singapore equalised in the 44th minute through Noor Ali.

Thailand survived a scrappy second half to go through in second place with coach Peter Withe, who had led them to the title in 2000, promising better things from his team in the knockout stage.

And so it came to pass with Thailand thumping Group A table-toppers Vietnam 4-0 in their last four encounter.

Bambang inspires Indonesia

The other semi-final was contested by Malaysia, who had tied 1-1 with lowly Laos in their final group match having already tied up qualification, and Indonesia.

The Merah Putih had drawn their group games with Myanmar and Vietnam in Group A but they were energised by 50,000 baying home fans at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium and beat Allan Harris’ young Malaysian side 1-0 thanks to a 75th-minute headed goal by the iconic Bambang Pamungkas.

That goal – Bambang’s eighth of the tournament, including two hat-tricks – set up a repeat of the 2000 final which Thailand had won comfortably 4-1, however Indonesia proved to be a much tougher prospect in front of a seething crowd of 100,000 in Jakarta.

Fantastic finale

The War Elephants foraged for goals from the first whistle and were two ahead by half-time through strikes by Chukiat Noosalung and playmaker Therdsak Chaiman.

However, the Thais found themselves under pressure early in the second half with Yaris Riyadi hammering home just after the break and goalscoring saint Chukiat turning sinner when he was sent off for elbowing an Indonesian forward.

Gendut Doni Christiawan scored the equaliser in the 79th minute and it was the home side that had the better chances in the remainder of normal time and extra time.

The shootout started with a huge surprise when Thailand’s captain fantastic Kiatisuk Senamuang blazed his effort over the bar but two missed attempts by Indonesia allowed Dusit Chalermsan the opportunity to wrap things up and he made the final scoreline 4-2 on penalties with a superb spot kick.

Tournament MVP Therdsak admitted that, although hugely satisfying, Thailand’s manner of victory was less impressive than that of the ‘dream team’s’ in 2000 and indeed it was 12 long years before they won the title again, on that occasion in 2014 with the influential Kiatisuk as coach.