Singapore have won the AFF Suzuki Cup three times, the last two occasions under the guidance of their long-serving coach Radojko Avramovic. The Serb assembled squads that won back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2007 and went unbeaten in the competition for 21 matches.
That fantastic run was ended by a 1-0 semi-final (second leg) defeat by Vietnam in 2008, Quang Hai scoring in the 74th minute to silence the famed “Kallang Roar” at the National Stadium, which is currently under reconstruction.
Worse was to come with Singapore failing to reach the knock-out stages in 2010 after drawing 1-1 with shock troops The Philippines and losing 1-0 to defending champions Vietnam. Sandwiched between those results was a nail-biting 2-1 victory over Myanmar with Agu Casmir scoring deep into injury time. But the win was not enough with Singapore eventually finishing in third spot, a point behind The Philippines.
After a period of re-building, Avramovic has been set the target of leading The Lions into the final of AFF Suzuki Cup 2012. A recent 1-0 loss to Hong Kong and a 2-2 home draw followed by a 2-0 defeat to Malaysia (a loss that snapped an eight-year unbeaten run against their old rivals) in the two-leg Causeway Challenge suggests there is more work to be done for the former kings of ASEAN football before the November kick-off.
Three-time champions Thailand have a lot to prove at AFF Suzuki Cup 2012 after failing to qualify from their group for just the second time in 2010. Coached by former England captain Bryan Robson, the Thais drew with minnows Laos (2-2) and eventual champions Malaysia (0-0) before bowing out following a 2-1 loss to co-hosts Indonesia.
Even though Thailand had last won the tournament in 2002 a lot had been expected of them under the guidance of Robson. But they failed to produce their famed passing game and lacked ideas particularly against Laos. Indeed, they came within a few minutes of being on the end of arguably the biggest shock in AFF Suzuki Cup history, Sarayoot “Joe Five Yards” Chaikamdee scoring the equaliser in the 91st minute.
Winfried Schafer, the German who famously led Cameroon to victory in the 2002 African Cup of Nations, took over from Robson in July 2011 and has steadied the ship. A 2-0 loss to Oman in March ended Thailand’s interest in the qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup but Schafer agreed to stay in charge and help re-build the team from the grass roots.
As co-hosts, Thailand will play their group matches at the Rajamangala Stadium, the scene of some famous victories including the 4-1 triumph over Indonesia in the final of the 2000 tournament.