With three rounds played and two remaining in the group stage of the 2022 AFF Championship, the qualification picture for the semifinals is starting to take shape.
As expected, defending champions Thailand and six-time runners-up Indonesia -- who met in the 2020 final -- lead the way in Group A although Cambodia and Philippines remain in with a chance of reaching the final four.
Over in Group B, three former winners in Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore are vying for just two semifinal berths and all have two victories to their names so far, while Myanmar and Laos are yet to pick up any points.
Ahead of match day 4, we take a closer look at the teams emerging out in front at Southeast Asia's premier international tournament.
Thailand (played 2, won 2, +9 goal difference, 6 points)
As the defending champions and record six-time winners of the competition, it has been par for the course for Thailand so far after 5-0 and 4-0 triumphs over Brunei Darussalam and Philippines respectively.
With the tournament's all-time top scorer Teerasil Dangda rolling back the years with three goals to his name already, and fellow veterans Theerathon Bunmathan and Sarach Yooyen pulling the strings in midfield, the War Elephants are shaping up as the team to beat once again.
Indonesia (played 2, won 2, +8 goal difference, 6 points)
Having come so close to ending their wait for a maiden title last time out, Indonesia are firmly on course to reach the semifinals again at the very least.
While they began their campaign with a less-than-convincing 2-1 win over the Cambodians, a 7-0 rout of Brunei -- where seven different players got on the scoresheet -- highlighted the strength in depth at coach Shin Tae-yong's disposal ahead of Thursday's rematch with Thailand.
Cambodia (played 2, won 1, lost 1, 0 goal difference, 3 points)
Advancing to the final four was always going to be a tough task but, after a shock victory over Philippines followed by a narrow loss to the Indonesians, there is plenty for Cambodia to be pleased about.
Fielding a relatively youthful squad, the Angkor Warriors have already shown progress from the last tournament and, while they might come up short in getting out of the group stage, this should be their best performance at the AFF Championship should they pick up another win as expected against the Bruneians.
Philippines (played 3, won 1, lost 2, -1 goal difference, 3 points)
Having reached the semifinals in four of the past six editions, Philippines would have felt they were a decent chance to return to the knockout stage after missing out in 2020 but it is now looking a bridge too far for an inexperienced outfit who only appointed Josep Ferre as coach about a week before the tournament.
Although they did emphatically beat Brunei 5-1, an opening 3-2 loss to Cambodia is proving costly and their most recent 4-0 defeat at the hands of Thailand highlighted the gulf in quality that still exists between them and the region's leading lights.
Brunei Darussalam (played 3, lost 3, -16 goal difference, 0 points)
Making only their second appearance at the AFF Championship -- and first since the inaugural edition in 1996 -- Brunei have understandably struggled so far, and are one of two teams already eliminated.
The Wasps have been comprehensively outplayed in their three outings so far and have the worst defensive record at the tournament with 17 goals conceded, although the inexperienced outfit should gain many lessons for the future.
Vietnam (played 2, won 2, +9 goal difference, 6 points)
In what is coach Park Hang-seo's swansong after five years at the helm, Vietnam are looking extra-determined to send him off on a high with a second AFF crown under his stewardship.
Following an opening 6-0 rout of Laos, Vietnam produced a real statement of intent last time out with a 3-0 triumph over fellow contenders Malaysia and should now comfortably reach the semifinals -- especially if they see off another challenger in Singapore on Friday.
Malaysia (played 3, won 2, lost 1, +3 goal difference, 6 points)
With two wins already in the bag before their loss to Vietnam on Tuesday, Malaysia's fate very much remains in their own hands.
They will sit out the match day 4 action but, provided other results go as expected, Harimau Malaya should progress as long as they beat neighbours Singapore in a highly-anticipated Causeway derby on Jan. 3 -- which is looming as an outright duel for a last-four berth.
Singapore (played 2, won 2, +3 goal difference, 6 points)
It is hard to find fault with Singapore given they currently boast a perfect record but it is worth noting that both their wins have come against bottom-placed duo Myanmar and Laos.
Even then, neither performance was convincing and, with far tougher tests ahead in the form of Vietnam and Malaysia, the Lions must reach another level if they are to repeat their charge to the semis in 2020.
Myanmar (played 2, lost 2, -2 goal difference, 0 points)
Given their domestic football scene has been hampered in recent years by both the coronavirus pandemic and political unrest, it was always going to be tough for Myanmar to give the best account of themselves at the tournament.
They have however done a decent job at that so far, losing by just a single goal to both Malaysia and Singapore, and showing they do have the potential to go further if circumstances allowed them to do so.
Laos (played 3, lost 3, -13 goal difference, 0 points)
Like Brunei, Laos have already been eliminated with a game still to play but, considering their far superior advantage at this level, they have perhaps been the more disappointing of the two basement dwellers.
They did offer improved resistance in their most recent loss to Singapore, but shipping 11 goals to Vietnam and Malaysia in their first two outings suggests that little progress has been made over the past 12 months.