Since its inception in 1996, the AFF Suzuki Cup has witnessed some great national teams which have lit up Southeast Asia’s showpiece competition. But only a few nations have been able to actually lift the coveted trophy in its 22-year history.
The powerhouses of SEA football — Thailand and Singapore — have dominated the tournament ever since its inception, but that is not to say there hasn’t been many surprises along the years. Davids have triumphed and Goliaths have fallen over the course of the 12 editions of the AFF Suzuki Cup making for an interesting watch.
Here, FOX Sports Asia takes a look at four national teams that have tasted success in the AFF Suzuki Cup.
Thailand (Five titles – 1996, 2000, 2002, 2014, 2016)
Thailand are the most decorated national team in the AFF Championship’s history having won the title in its very first edition in 1996 as well as in its most recent one in 2016. They also lifted the cup on three more occasions — 2000, 2002 and 2014 — securing an envious record in the Southeast Asian championship.
They have made it to the finals in eight out of 11 tournaments so far. Add to that, nine Southeast Asian Games titles and a third-placed finish in the 1972 AFC Asian Cup, not many will argue about the fact that the War Elephants are the most successful team in these parts of the world.
Perhaps the most memorable of Thailand’s title wins came in 2002 when they triumphed over Indonesia 4-2 on penalties in the final following a dramatic 2-2 draw that saw Indonesia come back from 2-0 down only to suffer a shootout heartbreak in front of around 100,000 fans in Jakarta.
In the 2016 edition, they overturned a 2-1 first leg deficit against the same opposition to win the final 3-2 on aggregate and add a fifth AFF Suzuki Cup to their trophy cabinet. That also enabled them to become the most successful team in the SEA competition as they pulled clear of…
Singapore (Four titles – 1998, 2004, 2007, 2012)
Singapore has not had much success in the AFF Suzuki Cup recently with the latest triumph coming in the 2012 edition when they claimed a then record fourth title and a third under legendary coach Raddy Avramovic. The Lions defeated Thailand 3-2 on aggregate back then, but has failed to even make the semifinals in the last two editions.
Singapore had also won the title under Avramovic in successive editions back in 2004 and 2007. In 2007 taking inspiration from 10-goal hero Noh Alam Shah, Singapore put to sword Thailand once again in the final while in 2004, it was Indonesia who were crushed 5-2 on aggregate.
Their first title win, meanwhile, came in 1998 when the Lions defeated Vietnam 1-0 in Hanoi. They are the most efficient finalists in the AFF Suzuki Cup having won the competition on each of the four occasions they have made it to the finals. But having taken a backseat behind Thailand in recent years, will this be the year the Lions will rise again?
Vietnam (One title – 2008)
With Thailand and Singapore winning nine of the 11 editions of the regional competition, only two other teams have gotten their hands on the AFF Championship — and the first do the almost unthinkable was Vietnam who did it in the 2008 edition of the competition.
In the 2008 final against the Thai War Elephants, Vietnam’s legendary striker Lee Cong Vinh scored once in each leg as the Golden Stars claimed a 3-2 aggregate win over a strong opposition in Hanoi. The triumph was made all the more sweeter as it came almost 10 years after Vietnam’s first and only other final appearance in the AFF Suzuki Cup which ended in disappointment as they lost 1-0 to Singapore in the 1998 edition at the same venue.
Malaysia (One title – 2010)
Two years later, another new AFF Suzuki Cup champion was born as this time, it was Malaysia’s turn to win a maiden title. And the driving force behind their championship win was their star striker Safee Sali, who won the 2010 Golden Boot with five goals in the tournament.
The hitman also led the Tigers in the final as he scored three goals in two legs against Indonesia as Malaysia emerged 4-2 victors — it was also sweet revenge for the Malaysians as they got the win over the opponents who had beaten them 5-1 in the group stages of the regional event just four weeks earlier.
The Tigers who had reached the final of the inaugural AFF Championship in 1996 only to lose to Thailand 1-0 in the decider had to wait till 2010 to reach another final — this time bagging the trophy. They also made the final in 2014, but lost to Thailand 4-3 in a closely-contested affair.