Coach Abdul Rahman Ibrahim was installed as the new head coach of the Malaysia national team in October 1998 after guiding Terengganu to the 1998 Malaysia Cup final. He replaced Hatem Souissi who had a disastrous outing in the 1998 AFF Cup, finishing the group stage without a single win.
Abdul Rahman brought through a core group of players that would play for the country for years after his departure. B. Rajanikandh, Rosdi Talib, Hamsani Ahmad, Ahmad Shahrul Azhar, Shukor Adan and Nizaruddin Yusof - just to name a few. He also was able to rely on a fit Azman Adnan to lead the strikeforce for the AFF Cup tournament held in Thailand.
The campaign started with a scoreless draw against Vietnam before consecutive wins against Laos (5-0) and Cambodia (3-2) set up a winner-take-all final group game match against arch-rival, Singapore. Azman and then youngster Hairuddin had already garnered two goals a piece by then and were well supplemented by the late runs from midfielder, Ahmad Shahrul.
Azman would again come to the fore in that match against Singapore, scoring the winning goal in the 63rd minute to put Malaysia second in Group B. Although tied on points with Vietnam, Malaysia would finished second in the group because of inferior goal difference.
So a meeting with favourites, Thailand was determined. The format of the competition being a one-match knockout for the semi-final stage gave Thailand the advantage, seeing that they are the host of the tournament. It proved to be the case as the Thais were too strong and goals from Kiatisuk Senamuang and Tawan Sripan knocked Malaysia out of the competition.
It was to be a rematch of the first Group B fixture as Vietnam also found Indonesia too hot to handle in the semi-final. A dispirited Vietnamese side would succumbed to a 3-0 defeat to Malaysia as left back, Rosdi Talib and Selangor striker, Rusdi Suparman weighed in with the goals. Thailand went on to beat Indonesia in the final to claim their second AFF Cup success since its inception.
As for Malaysia and Abdul Rahman, some form of pride was restored after the dismal 1998 outing and the same four teams would go on to dominate the tournament two years later as well.
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