Surprise semifinal ties between fierce rivals add to intrigue of AFF Suzuki Cup 2020

After a fortnight brimming with tension and drama, the semifinal lineup at AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 has been finalised.

And it would take a bold soul to claim they saw this one coming.

- Indonesia join Vietnam in AFF semis with win over Malaysia
- Yoshida must ignore boos and keep taking Singapore forward
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Following the conclusion of the group stage, hosts Singapore -- appearing in the final four for the first time since they last won the competition in 2012 -- will take on five-time runners-up Indonesia, who are still looking for their first-ever title, while reigning champions Vietnam will meet record five-time winners Thailand.

The latter tie is shaping up as a particularly intriguing affair given it was the matchup many had predicted as the decider, but more on that later.

Clash of the underdogs

Firstly, given the geographical proximity between the two countries and the relative rivalry the teams share (although Malaysia arguably are the greater enemy for both), the meeting between Singapore and Indonesia is in itself a tantalising prospect.

It is the knockout-round clash that no one knew they needed, or expected for that matter.

Despite being the fourth-ranked side out of Group A's five teams, Singapore did head into the tournament with some optimism given Philippines and Myanmar -- the other sides expected to battle for second spot with the Thais standout favourites in the group -- did not enjoy the best of build-ups.

From the moment they claimed wins over Philippines and Myanmar in their opening two matches, the Lions were headed for the last four and eventually sealed that with a game to spare although they had to settle for the runners-up berth after losing to Thailand in their final match.

Singapore coach Tatsuma Yoshida has embraced his team's status as pretenders to the throne but even their underdog story pales in comparison to that of Indonesia.

Given they found themselves in a group that featured both 2018 finalists in Vietnam and Malaysia, and the fact that their youthful-looking squad boasted just three players with over ten caps at the start of play, few outside Indonesia would have said for certain that Merah-Putih would find themselves in the knockout round.

Not only did they indeed advance, but they did so as Group B winners after pipping Vietnam on the second tie-breaker of goal difference with their head-to-head record a non-factor following a 0-0 draw between the two sides.

Plenty of credit has to go to coach Shin Tae-yong, the man who masterminded South Korea's 2-0 win over then-champions Germany at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, who has gotten his young charges playing a breathtaking brand of high-intensity football.

Regardless of which team ultimately advances on into the final, both will remain the underdogs -- although that is a role they have thrived on so far.

Battle for supremacy arrives early

As the region's top two teams, the meeting between the Suzuki Cup's record winners and current champions would have been the dream final -- and one that many were anticipating.

The fact that Thailand and Vietnam are now meeting one stage earlier adds to the high-stakes nature of the contest, considering a semifinal exit would be regarded as a failure in both camps.

The Thais have shown the greater form and remain the only team in the tournament with a perfect record of four wins, also displaying great depth by fielding a second-string XI in their final group-stage outing against Singapore and still coasting to a 2-0 triumph.

Vietnam will however consider themselves to be the more battle-hardened of the two teams, which should stand them in good stead in what will be another gruelling encounter.

Far from being a battle of attrition between two evenly-matched teams, this last-four encounter has all the potential to deliver a real spectacle given the amount talent that will be on display.

Thai maestro Chanathip Songkrasin and Vietnam ace Nguyen Quang Hai have combined for the competition's last three Most Valuable Player awards, and are looming as pivotal figures to their respective sides' prospects.

Akin to an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, this tie will also pit a potent Thailand attack -- led by a man who recently became the competition's all-time top scorer in Teerasil Dangda -- against a formidable Vietnamese defence that has yet to concede a goal in the tournament.

And the bonus of coming up against your biggest challengers a round earlier than expected? Whoever emerges triumphant will head into the final as overwhelming favourites.