And then there were four.
After a whirlwind 11 days of group-stage action in the men's football tournament at the 31st Southeast Asian Games, ten hopefuls have been whittled down to a quartet still in the running to win the coveted gold medal: Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
It should perhaps come as no surprise that it is these four teams that are into the semifinals -- which take place on Thursday evening -- given they have combined to win every gold medal on offer since the inaugural SEA Games in 1977.
But who is most likely to go all the way? Here, we assess each team's chances.
The reigning gold medallists from 2019, which was also their first-ever triumph, Vietnam may not boast the same star-studded golden generation from three years ago but have thus far looked every bit a chance to retain their crown.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of their performances so far is the fact that apart from their three overage players in captain Do Hung Dung, playmaker Nguyen Hoang Duc and striker Nguyen Tien Linh, the rest of the squad are relatively inexperienced at international level -- highlighting an impressive array of talent coming through the ranks.
The only blemish for the Vietnamese in the group stage was a 0-0 draw with Philippines, with their opening-day 3-0 triumph over Indonesia the strongest statement from their victories in the other three matches.
20-year-old wing-back Le Van Do has been a revelation providing assist after assist, while also being part of a sturdy defence yet to concede at the Games.
Verdict: The talent is there but this Vietnam team is lacking both in experience and genuine star quality, apart from their overage trio. Winning a second consecutive gold medal is not beyond them, but they could be found wanting as the stakes get higher.
As 16-time record gold medallists at the SEA Games, Thailand have already made amends from a shock group-stage elimination in 2019 -- finishing ahead of Malaysia to claim top spot in Group B.
The War Elephants boast a strong foundation in the squad with goalkeeper Kawin Thamsatchanan and midfielders Worachit Kanitsribamphen and Weerathep Pomphan -- all members of last year's AFF Suzuki Cup-winning team -- as their three overage players.
The Thais have also turned to senior team coach Mano Polking to lead their SEA Games guest on a one-off basis, and he has already imposed his style and intensity on his young charges.
Patrik Gustavsson, Ekanit Panya and Korawich Tasa offer Thailand a variety of goal-scoring options, although they have been proven to be beatable after Malaysia claimed a 2-1 win over them albeit with a numerical advantage after a first-half red card to Jonathan Khemdee.
Verdict: This team may not be brimming with illustrious names like the gold-medal winning sides of 2013 and 2015, but it is impossible to write the Thais off given their history at the Games, as well as the presence of Polking in the dugout. Importantly, their loss to Malaysia may also have been a much-needed warning in avoiding complacency.
After the senior side finished runners-up in the most-recent AFF Suzuki Cup with an exciting, youthful outfit, there was plenty of expectation on Indonesia heading into the SEA Games with a wave of players promising to be their very own golden generation.
They have thus far achieved the bare minimum by reaching the semifinals, but that heavy 3-0 loss to Vietnam highlights just how big the gap could potentially still be between them and Southeast Asia's genuine powerhouses.
With Europe-based duo Egy Maulana and Witan Sulaeman leading the way, along with outstanding prospects such as Marselino Ferdinan and Alfeandra Dewangga, the Indonesians should really be gunning for gold.
Nonetheless, Indonesia have a history of being unable to get over the finish line -- perhaps best illustrated by their six runners-up finishes in Suzuki Cup history -- while they are also the only team from the semifinalists that have not won the SEA Games gold medal since it became an age-group competition.
Verdict: Indonesia's sheer talent is undeniable. Whether or not coach Shin Tae-yong -- who famously led South Korea at the 2018 FIFA World Cup -- can get them to overcome their mental hurdles and believe they can claim the gold medal will be decisive.
Apart from Vietnam, Malaysia are the only other team yet to taste defeat at this year's SEA Games and much of that is down to how well-organised an outfit they are under coach Brad Maloney.
While their squad is relatively youthful, the fact that plenty of the players are tasting regular first-team action at club level has helped prepare for them for the intensity they have faced at the Games.
The Malaysians fell to a humbling group-stage exit three years ago but were silver medallists as recently as 2017 and -- in an edition with no clear favourites - should be optimistic in their chances of marching on into the final at least.
Verdict: Malaysia have plenty going for them but are perhaps the most vulnerable in defence having conceded six goals in the group stage - the most of all the four semifinallists. If Maloney can iron out those few remaining kinks at the back, the Malaysians have enough firepower to win the gold medal.