Football: Insiders reveal how the Lions won each of their 4 AFF Championships

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SINGAPORE - The Lions may be underdogs at most Asean football championships, but they have a remarkable record when they do get past the group stage.

From five semi-final appearances, they made four finals, and won every one.

The key members of each of Singapore's victorious campaigns share their insights on how each title was won.

1998: Youth to the fore

R. Sasikumar, Singapore's match winner in the 1998 Tiger Cup final, as the Asean Football Federation Championship was known then:

"Due to injury and personal reasons, many stars like Fandi Ahmad, David Lee, Malek Awab, Lim Tong Hai, Steven Tan and V. Selvaraj were retired or not in the 1998 squad.

"There was a youthful energy about the team because there were players from the Olympic (Under-23) squad who wanted to prove their worth and thinking this was our turn. There was Rezal Hassan in goal, S. Subramani, Aide Iskandar and myself in a three-man defence, and we had a solid backline who trusted one another.

"Rafi Ali was redeployed as a striker, and although Indra Sahdan was dropped, we had 19-year-old Ahmad Latiff. Both of them scored in our first game as we beat Malaysia 2-0, which settled any nerves and gave us the belief (that we could do well).

"We were a very efficient unit that didn't concede much. We knew that if we could score goals then we wouldn't be beaten.

"Another advantage we had then that was overlooked was we had a height advantage on most teams and we made use of that to batter our opponents and that was also how I scored my Cup-winning goal against Vietnam."

2004: Bring back the Roar

Former Singapore coach Radojko Avramovic, who masterminded the 2004, 2007 and 2012 triumphs:

"Because of the poor results up to that point, when I took over in July 2003, few players were excited to receive a call-up. There was low tactical discipline and fitness, so I thought we had to call up new players to form a new team. It was a tricky decision, because if I didn't succeed, I would lose my job.

"But I was lucky to have the support of the football association, and with the assistance of Fandi Ahmad, Lee Bee Seng and Sasha Bozenko, we made the big turn to call up many Young Lions players, who had finished third in the league, for the national team.

"We found the right balance of players, fitness, team spirit and a winning mentality. We went to Vietnam without anyone giving us a chance but I was really sure we could reach the final.

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