Thailand unfazed by earlier-than-expected duel with AFF Suzuki Cup champions Vietnam

The dream final that was anticipated at AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 may be arriving a stage earlier, with the tournament's record five-time winners Thailand set to face off against reigning champions Vietnam in the semifinals.

The fact that the two teams widely perceived as the strongest in the competition are facing off in the last four also means both arguably face a tougher test to qualify for the decider than they might have originally hoped for, with Indonesia and Singapore facing off in the other semi.

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But all tournament long, Thailand have maintained that their ambition is to go all the way, which means nothing changes even if they are coming up against Vietnam slightly earlier than expected.

"We're down to the best four teams in the competition. At this stage, it doesn't really matter who you face in the semifinal or final," Thailand goalkeeper Siwarak Tedsungnoen told ESPN.

"Our approach remains the same and our target is still the become the champions and bring the trophy back home."

Given their status as the most successful team in Southeast Asian football history, there has always been a weight of expectations on the War Elephants, although that is also something Vietnam have had to deal recently following their rise over the past three years.

Thailand coach Alexandre Polking is aware of this pressure but also believes it will only add to the spectacle.

"As we know, it's a big game in this region given Vietnam and Thailand have so much history in the tournament. Vietnam are the current champions while Thailand won both editions before that, so this makes it a special game," said the Brazilian-German.

"I think the biggest advantage Vietnam have is that, because of the COVID situation, it has given them a very special case of having the team together for five months. That's an incredible time to have the best players of the country together.

"This helps the coach and the team to have good understanding and the ability to test many systems and players, and we know they have good players, but I'm also very happy with what we've done even though we didn't have that kind of time. We're playing in a way that's good and I think that is our advantage.

"There is always pressure given both countries have big expectations. We all want to continue to grow on the Asian stage but this competition is the one that's reachable at the moment, which is why I believe it will be a great semifinal between two very good teams."