War Elephants, Southern Tigers and Neymar: The moments that shook Southeast Asia's best stadiums
RAJAMANGALA STADIUM (THAILAND)
Thailand’s national stadium has played host to a number of key matches and tournaments down the years, including the 1988 Asian Games and the 2007 Asian Cup, but perhaps the most important clash came at the turn of the century.
This second title for Thailand at the then-still relatively modern venue was the start of the nation’s emergence as regional kingpins
The third edition of the AFF Championships – known as the Tiger Cup at the time – had been a relatively straightforward affair for the War Elephants, who had breezed into the 2000 final having won every match and conceding only twice along the way, so expectations were high ahead of their clash with Indonesia.
A Woorawoot Srimaka brace inside 18 minutes set the hosts on their way and after a brief scare when Indonesia scored in the 20th minute, Srimaka completed his hat-trick and Tanongsak Prajakkata grabbed another in the second half as Thailand ran out 4-1 winners in what to this day remains one of the more dominant AFF Championship showings by any nation.
The shirts may have been billowing and loose and the crowd not at capacity, but there’s little question that this second title for Thailand at the then-still relatively modern venue was the start of the nation’s emergence as regional kingpins.
NATIONAL STADIUM (SINGAPORE)
Only opened three years ago, the timing of the arrival of the best venue anywhere in Southeast Asia has coincided with one of the worst periods for its major tenant in the Singapore national side.
Whilst a friendly between Brazil and Japan in late 2014 saw the first capacity crowd at the venue - and a four-goal turn from Neymar no less - it was perhaps the arrival of another South American nation three years later that will stick with supporters as one of the most memorable matches – but not for the right reasons.
After weeks spent hyping the arrival of Lionel Messi, Argentina’s talisman failed to appear for a July friendly with Singapore that marked the 125th anniversary of the Football Association of Singapore.
But it mattered little as the Albiceleste turned on a real show in dispatching the hosts 6-0, flaunting a seldom seen two-man defensive line in doing so.
The woes of the Lions have hardly let up since that clash and it might be quite some time before the imposing National Stadium has a football team capable of matching its impressive design and facilities.