NAYPYIDAW - It has been a barren spell at the SEA Games for Thailand, who won the football title eight straight times before crashing out in the first round of the two previous tournaments.
To arrest the dramatic slide, the former kingpins have turned to their one-time prince, who swears by his brand of all-out attack. It takes less than a minute of speaking to the Thais' Under-23 coach Kiatisuk Senamuang to understand his tactical philosophy - the very same one he will adopt in tonight's semi-final against Singapore.
"Football is about attack, entertaining the fans, scoring many goals, making people happy," the country's former striker supreme told The Straits Times yesterday.
But the main goal extends beyond regaining ASEAN supremacy.
The man, nicknamed "Zico" by Thai fans, after the Brazilian star, wants to revive the glory days when the kingdom's team were among Asia's finest.
While he has won four SEA Games titles (1993, 1995, 1997, 1999) and three ASEAN Football Championships (1996, 2000, 2002), he has also twice finished fourth at the Asian Games (1990 and 1998).
On display tonight is Thailand's next generation, aiming to follow in the footsteps of local heroes like Tawan Sripan, Natipong Sritong-In and Surachai Jaturapattarapong.
Workaholic Kiatisuk put his charges through a month-long training camp in Chiang Mai before the SEA Games, not hesitating to join in to demonstrate exactly how he wants a pass or a run to be made. "I don't like to show videos or get my players to read reports - everything we do, we do on the field," said the affable 40-year-old, who struck 70 times in 131 international games.
"The players respect what I did as a player so we can talk like brothers."
The band of brothers, who have honed their skills in Thailand's competitive Premier League, have showed no mercy on the field.
In June, they thumped China's national side 5-1. This past week, they hit eight in four games - including a 4-1 mauling of fellow semi-finalists Indonesia.