The second edition of the Tiger Cup saw a change in the format with the top four teams at the last tournament two years ago in Singapore gaining direct entry into the event that was being hosted by Vietnam.
The qualifying tournament was held in two countries with teams that finished in the bottom six at the last tournament taking part.
Towards that, Myanmar, Laos and Brunei played in Group A qualifiers in Yangon with hosts Myanmar and Laos emerging as the top two teams at the Thuwunna Stadium to advance to the finals.
Group B was hosted by Singapore, Philippines and Cambodia with hosts Singapore and the Philippines punching the ticket from the Jurong Stadium for the main draw.
In the tournament proper in Vietnam, Group A was held at the Thong Nhat Stadium in Ho Chi Minh City while Group B played at the Hanoi Stadium in Hanoi.
GROUP A – Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines
Even without the finishing prowess of Kiatisak Senamuang, defending champions Thailand were still a handful with Therdsak Chaiman pulling the string from the centre of the park and the unstoppable Woorawot Srimaka upfront.
With Thailand winning the group Indonesia – with the young Bima Sakti and Aji Santoso in their side – sneaked up on the runners-up spot from the group following their triumphant win over Myanmar and the Philippines.
Myanmar, with the young Soe Myat Min and striker Aung Khine, put up a strong challenge to hold Thailand to a draw.
But their loss to Indonesia saw them narrowly missing the cut for a place in the semifinals
For the Philippines and even though they had Randy Valbuena and also Marlon Pinero, they just could not step up their game.
GROUP B – Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Laos
Playing in the qualifiers gave Singapore some good games and that made the difference against slow starting Malaysia, who chose to use youngsters from their 1997 World Youth Cup squad.
Under Englishman Barry Whitbread, Singapore withstood the absence of Fandi Ahmad by being compact through the likes of Aide Iskandar and also Nazri Nasir.
Their win in the first game against nemesis Malaysia gave them confidence to win the group ahead of hosts Vietnam – on better goal difference.
For Vietnam, powered by Nguyen Hong Son and of course Le Huynh Duc, made sure of their place in the next round with wins over Laos and Malaysia.
Laos were relying on veteran Bounlap Khenkitisack to guide them but they just fell short of the target.
In the semifinals, Alfred Riedl gave hosts Vietnam plenty of cheer when they dumped Thailand with an outright three goals while Singapore edged Indonesia.
And while Vietnam were confident in the final, it was to be R. Sasikumar who made the difference when he nudged the ball in the second half for the win.
That was to be the only goal of the game as the Tiger Cup saw a new champion being crowned as the trophy heads down to Singapore.
ROLL OF HONOUR