By Khalis Rifhan
After defying the odds to win the 1998 Tiger Cup, Singapore had a dismal outing the following campaign as they failed to progress from the group stage.
With Barry Whitebread stepping down after their win in Vietnam, his assistant and Singapore Armed Forces FC coach Vincent Subramaniam was appointed.
The squad was a mix of young and old as veteran captain Nazri Nasir and Rafi Ali were joined by promising youngster such as Noor Ali and adventurous attacking midfielder Ahmad Latiff.
Drawn in Group B alongside Vietnam, Malaysia, Laos and Cambodia, Singapore languished in third spot after two wins and two losses.
Singapore started the campaign with a win against Cambodia courtesy of a goal from freekick specialist Rafi Ali. Despite having the bulk of possession, the Lions could not add to their tally as their opponents were camping in their own half for most of the game.
In their next match against Laos, Rafi scored the opener barely ten minutes into the match before Nazri Nasir added the team second 12 minutes later.
In the dying seconds of the game Steven Tan registered his name on the score sheet as the Lions ran out 3-0 victors against the minnows of South East Asia.
The latter two matches, however were one to forget for the Lions as they went down against Vietnam and Malaysia by a single goal.
Vietnam's deadliest striker at the time, Le Huynh Duc, netted 17 minutes after the half-time interval as Singapore’s defence crumbled after putting their opponents at bay in the first-half.
It was a similar story against the Tigers of Malaya as the Lions ended the game without a point as custodian Rezal Hassan had no answer to Azman Adnan's strike in the second-half.
Malaysia and Vietnam advanced to the semifinal from Group B and they were joined by Group A winner Thailand and runners-up Indonesia.
Indonesia needed an extra-time goal by Doni Christiawan against Vietnam to progress to the final after the match ended in a two all draw in regulation time.
Thailand was no match for Malaysia as they ran out 2-0 winners, courtesy of goals from former Huddersfield Town player Kiatisuk Senamuang and midfield strongman Tawan Sripan.
The final was a repeat of their first meeting in the group stage in which Thailand blitzed four past the Garudas.
It was definitely a night that goalkeeper Hendro Kartiko would not want to remember as he conceded four goals against a more superior Thailand side.
Worrawoot Srimaka completed his hat trick in the 32nd minute of the game while defender Tanongsak Prajakkata added his team's fourth in the second-half. Indonesia’s Uston Nawawi scored his team's only goal for the night.
Worrawoot was also joint golden boot winner with Indonesia's Doni Christiawan while Kiatisuk was named the most valuable player of the tournament.