By Khalis Rifhan
Jan Poulsen was initially appointed as Technical Director in 1999, but the Dane replaced Vincent Subramaniam as Singapore head coach in 2001 after the latter led the Lions to a dismal campaign in the 2000 Tiger Cup.
Although Poulsen, a former member of Denmark's technical staff during the 1998 World Cup 1998, was appointed to bring success to the nation, he led the team to a disastrous start in the 2002 Tiger Cup.
Croatia-born striker Mirko Grabovac was joined by two new Lions in the form of centreback Daniel Bennett and forward Egmar Goncalves, who hailed from England and Brazil respectively, as the trio made their Tiger Cup debuts.
Despite boasting the three naturalized players in the squad, hosts Singapore lost to arch-rivals Malaysia by four unanswered goals in front of a 40,000-strong home crowd.
Former RC Strasbourg striker Akmal Rizal scored the opener, while midfielder Indra Putra grabbed a brace before Selangor FA's Nizaruddin Yusof netted the fourth goal in a 4-0 rout of the Lions.
After the match Poulsen said: “Obviously the players and I are very disappointed. This was an important match not only for the team but also for football in Singapore. We never really functioned as a team. I cannot recall a match where we have played so poorly as a team."
Although Singapore registered a vital win against Laos in the second match, a draw against Thailand in their final group match was not enough to see them through to the semi-final.
They squeezed past Laos 2-1 courtesy of goals from Noh Alam Shah and Noor Ali while 17-year-old Visay Phaphouvanin grabbed a consolation, before their last game against the War Elephants ended in a 1-1 draw.
Noor Ali's goal a minute before the break cancelled out Woorawoot Srimaka's 15th-minute opener, and the home side failed to penetrate a tight Thailand defence led by Dusit Chalermsan again as they eventually crashed out of the tournament.
Thailand set up a meeting with Indonesia in the final after seeing off Vietnam 4-0 in the semi-final.
In the final, Chukiat Noosarung and Therdsak Chaiman put the Thais two goals up before the break, but the Indonesians raised their game in the second half to get back on level terms.
Yaris Riyadi and star striker Doni Christiawan scored a minute after the restart and 11 minutes before the end of regulation time respectively to see the game go into a penalty shoot-out.
There was to be no fairytale comeback for the Indonesians though, as the Thais triumphed 4-2 on spot-kicks to lift the 2002 title.
Although Indonesia was second best in the tournament, striker Bambang Pamungkas bagged the Golden Boot award after he scored eight goals, two more than teammate Zaenal Arif and Vietnamese Le Huynh Duc.