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A look back at the history of the AFF Suzuki Cup and its past 12 editions

Thailand are the most-successful team in AFF Suzuki Cup history with five titles to their names, with their last triumph coming back in 2016. AFF Suzuki Cup

After a year's delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the biggest football competition in Southeast Asia is finally back with the AFF Suzuki Cup kicking off on Dec. 6.

Ten countries will do battle over the next month to become kings of the region, with 2018 winners Vietnam the pre-tournament favourites but expected to face a serious challenge from record five-time champions Thailand and Malaysia, runners-up in the previous edition.

With Southeast Asian football yet to make an impact on the bigger continental or global stages, the Suzuki Cup remains the main platform for the teams to achieve glory.

In the 25 years of its existence, the competition has constantly delivered drama and excitement. Ahead of the start of the 2020 edition on Sunday, we look back at the previous 12 tournaments.

1996: Thailand become the first ASEAN champions

As the inaugural competition -- then known as the Tiger Cup -- took place in Singapore, it was Thailand who would become their first champions of Southeast Asia as they beat Malaysia 1-0 in the final.

Netipong Srithong-in was the top scorer for the War Elephants with seven goals, but it was Thai legend Kiatisuk Senamuang who scored the only goal of the final to see off the challenge from the Malaysians.

1998: "Shoulder of God" wins it for Singapore

After failing to make it out of the group stage despite home advantage two years earlier, Singapore would make amends in 1998. Having already finished level on points in Group B with two wins, and a draw with one another, Singapore and hosts Vietnam would progress from the semis to meet again in the final.

There, it was Lions defender R. Sasikumar who would produce one of the tournament's all-time iconic moments with a winner scored with his shoulder blade -- a goal which has since been regularly referred to as the "Shoulder of God" in reference to Diego Maradona's infamous "Hand of God" effort against England at the 1986 FIFA World Cup.

2000: Thailand's deadly duo prove unstoppable

As if having Kiatisuk in attack was not formidable enough, Thailand's team for the 2000 edition also included another of the region's most-feared strikers in Worrawoot Srimaka - an absolute force of nature standing at 1.94 metres.

With the duo working brilliantly in tandem and combining for nine of their team's total of 15 goals, the Thais would comfortably go all the way after winning all five matches with Worrawoot bagging a hat-trick in a 4-1 victory over Indonesia in the final.

2002: War Elephants continue rampage

Having become the tournament's first two-time champions in 2000, Thailand would make history again two years later as they became the first team to retain the title.

Although they would not be as dominant as they were in the previous edition, having only made it out of the group stage on goal difference, the War Elephants would ultimately do enough to once again see off the Indonesians in the final -- winning 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw.

2004: Lions reclaim the throne

By the time the Suzuki Cup concluded its fifth edition, it was beginning to look like a tournament dominated by two teams as Singapore claimed their second triumph in 2004.

Despite coming up against an impressive Indonesia outfit that looked certain to end their drought, and who had scored 22 goals in their six games prior, in the final, the Lions would set the stage with a 3-1 away win in Jakarta before sealing the title by winning the return leg 2-1.

2007: Avramovic leads Singapore to back-to-back titles

In 2007, it was Singapore's turn to claim their third title to move level with Thailand and it marked a period of dominance for Radojko Avramovic's charges as they set a record of 17 matches unbeaten by the time they beat Thailand in the final.

Noh Alam Shah's seven-goal haul in an 11-0 win over Laos in the group stage remains a competition record, but it was Fahrudin Mustafic who emerged as the hero of the final. Despite a 15-minute delay from the 83rd minute in the first leg of the final, as the Thais stormed off the pitch in protest of a penalty awarded against them, Mustafic held his nerve to convert from the spot when play finally resumed to seal 2-1 win that would go on to prove crucial.

2008: Cong Vinh inspires Vietnam to maiden crown

12 years after the competition first began, a third champion finally emerged in 2008 in the form of Vietnam -- even if they did not originally look like they might be serious contenders after finishing behind Thailand in Group B.

A 1-0 aggregate win over Singapore in the semifinals saw them move on to the decider, where a goal in each leg by star man Le Cong Vinh, including a 94th-minute strike in the second leg, would secure a 3-2 aggregate triumph over Thailand would seal his place in Vietnamese football folklore.

2010: Rajagobal leads Malaysia to the promised land

A year after he lead Malaysia's Under-23 side to a gold medal at the Southeast Asian Games, K. Rajagobal would retain his faith in youth as he took a talented but inexperienced outfit to the 2010 Suzuki Cup.

It would prove to be an inspired decisions as the young Tigers would go on to defeat Indonesia in the final to be crowned champions of Southeast Asia for the first time ever, although it was a relatively seasoned campaigner who proved inspirational as Safee Sali -- with only 20 caps to his name ahead of the tournament -- scored five of Harimau Malaya's six goals in the knockout stages.

2012: Singapore make history as first four-time champions

After playing catch-up with Thailand in the early years of the tournament, Singapore would go on to move ahead on the winners' list in 2012 as they became the first team to win four AFF titles.

A heroic 3-0 win over archrivals Malaysia in their opening match set the tone for what was to follow, which culminated in a 3-2 aggregate final victory over Thailand in what was effectively an outright duel for a place in tournament history as Avramovic signed off as Lions coach on a high.

2014: Kiatisuk wins it again -- this time from the dugout

In 2012, a teenage Chanathip Songkrasin was part of the Thailand squad to finished as runners-up behind Singapore but was largely restricted to the role of onlooker on the bench. Two years later, and still only 21, it was a far different story.

With Kiatisuk at the helm, the War Elephants would usher in a period of regional dominance with a fourth Suzuki Cup victory as Chanathip - who would win the competition's Most Valuable Player award - and Charyl Chappuis emerged as stars of the future.

2016: Chanathip emerges as Southeast Asia's finest once more

Just like Avramovic did before him with Singapore, Kiatisuk would become a back-to-back Suzuki Cup-winning coach as his star-studded side went on to claim a fifth Suzuki Cup for Thailand.

With prolific striker Teerasil Dangda, who had been absent in 2014, introduced into the squad, the Thais had an added element of threat in the final third as their spearhead did not disappoint with a tournament-leading six goals, although Chanathip was once again the standout as he claimed a second consecutive MVP trophy.

2018: Vietnam rise to the top

At a time when it looked like no one could rival Thailand, Vietnam -- boasting their own golden generation which first rose to prominence with a runners-up finish at the 2018 AFC U-23 Championship -- emerged as Southeast Asia's newest powerhouses.

With the wily Park Hang-seo at the helm, and mercurial playmaker Nguyen Quang Hai pulling the strings, the Vietnamese would go the entire campaign unbeaten as they won six out eight matches culminating in a 3-2 aggregate triumph over Malaysia in the final.