Thais break 12-year drought to win ASEAN title again after thriller in KL

Thailand's 12-year wait for major international silverware came to the end in dramatic fashion yesterday when they were crowned the ASEAN Championship winners after a nerve-jangling 4-3 aggregate win.

Last night's result was 3-2 in Malaysia's favour but Thailand had a 2-0 advantage from the first final match on Wednesday.

The country's last triumph at senior level came in 2002 when they won the championship for the third time. No one could have predicted it would take more than a decade for the Thais, who won three of the first four editions of the biennial event after its inception in 1996, to taste such success again.

The final victory over 2010 winners Malaysia capped a sizzling campaign characterised by an attractive brand of football. It also put Thailand level with Singapore as the most successful nations, with four titles in the region's showpiece tournament.

The win earned the Thai players their biggest pay-day with over Bt25 million in prize money and incentives from the Football Association of Thailand and sponsors.

The Thai FA, meanwhile, has prepared a big reception for the returning heroes, starting with an open-topped bus parade from Don Mueang Airport to Supachalasai Stadium in downtown Bangkok this afternoon.

Before the game at the intimidating Bukit Jalil stadium in the Malaysian capital, there were leaked photos showing a red national jersey, which the Thai side were due to wear, with the phrase "This shirt is blue" written on it. The players hoped this would bring them luck after playing in blue shirts without losing in the event so far.

In fact, it was exactly the slice of luck that the Thais needed to end their long barren run. The Malaysians, roared on by a capacity crowd at the 100,000-seat venue, had threatened to pip them to the title by taking a 3-0 lead with half an hour remaining.

But the Thai side, coached by talismanic trainer Kiatisak Senamuang, the man credited for the team's recent resurgence after leading the under-23 team to SEA Games triumph last December, staged a remarkable fightback with two goals to ensure they return home with the prized title.