Ever since the AFF Cup was launched in 1996, Malaysia had only once failed to qualify past the group stage and that was in the 1998 edition. B. Sathianathan's reign as the Malaysia national team coach will unfortunately be remembered as only the second coach to match that feat as Malaysia stumbled out of the 2008 tournament in the group stage.
Pitted in Group B with Thailand, Vietnam and Laos; there was only one easy game for Sathianathan's boys. Laos were the beating boys of the group conceding 13 goals and scoring none. Malaysia themselves put three past them in the opening match of the group with Indra Putra and Safee Sali getting on the scoresheet.
The next match against Vietnam was a much tougher affair. Indra Putra once again hitting the back of the net but Vietnam recovered to take a 1-2 lead with just 15 minutes left to play at the Surakul Stadium in Phuket, Thailand. Indra would levelled proceedings in the 85th minute but lapse in concentration allowed the opponents to immediately retake their lead in the proceeding minute after Indra's goal.
Knowing that Vietnam will face Laos in the final group match and a win for them is almost a certainty, Malaysia was left with the task of getting a win off the impressive Thailand side who has scored nine without reply after the first two matches. It was to be too tall an order for the Tigers.
Thailand would continue their clean sheet record as Malaysia struggled to break down their resolute defence. The War Elephants punished the Tigers as starlet, Teerasil Dangda, aged 20 then put the sword to the Malaysian team. That said, the fact that both Vietnam and Thailand managed to go through to the final shows just how tough the competition was. Vietnam eventually coming up on top in the final, winning the tournament for the first time.
The consolation for Sathianathan would be the fact that he was able to bring through youngsters like Amirulhadi Zainal, Aidil Zafuan, Zaquan Adha and Asraruddin Putra - some of whom went on to edge their names in the history books just two years after 2008.