Two down, one to go: Where do things stand heading into final round of AFC Cup 2022 ASEAN Zone?

Kedah Darul Aman remain in the hunt for a place in the ASEAN Zone semifinals of AFC Cup 2022 after beating Kaya FC-Iloilo on Monday. Asian Football Confederation

After two rounds of ASEAN Zone group-stage action in AFC Cup 2022, the stage is set for a grandstand finish in Thursday's final games.

Due to the condensed nature of this year's format, no team is guaranteed a place in the zonal semifinals yet -- with eight teams still in the running to claim one of four knockout berths.

With no shortage of drama and surprises having already been delivered, we take a closer look at where things stand heading into the finale.

Upstarts Visakha threatening to pull off major upset

It initially looked as though Visakha would be the whipping boys in Group G, having been drawn alongside AFC Cup regulars Bali United, Malaysian heavyweights Kedah Darul Aman and Philippines' Kaya FC-Iloilo, who only just last year featured in the top-tier AFC Champions League.

But after two matches, the Cambodian upstarts remarkably find themselves top of the pile with a three-point lead over both Bali and Kedah.

Their opening 2-1 win over Kaya was impressive in itself, but they backed that up with an even more stunning triumph -- emphatically beating group hosts Bali 5-2 on Monday.

Having only been founded in 2016, Visakha look a team firmly on the rise and boast a whole host of internationals like Keo Sokpheng, Thierry Chantha Bin and Chrerng Polroth, as well as ex-Cambodia coach Lee Tae-hoon.

One final tough test remains but a point against Kedah would be enough to seal top spot and progress to the knockout round in their tournament debut.

Meanwhile, both Kedah and Bali -- who take on already-eliminated Kaya on Thursday -- still have a chance of qualifying either as Group G winners or as the best-placed runners-up.

PSM hold advantange in Group H's three-way battle

Group H -- which only boasts three teams - is currently being led by PSM Makassar, who have four points to their names after backing up an opening-day draw against Kuala Lumpur City with a 3-1 triumph over ten-man Tampines Rovers on Monday.

Nonetheless, PSM have now completed their group-stage campaign and, while they retain the advantage, Kuala Lumpur head into Thursday's tie with Tampines knowing anything more than a two-goal win will be enough to see them pip the Indonesian outfit to top spot.

Given Kuala Lumpur have only played once so far, it is difficult to get a gauge on where they stand, although their domestic displays in the Malaysia Super League so far in 2022 -- four wins from ten outings -- suggest they have room for improvement after doing so well to win the Malaysia Cup last term.

Meanwhile, Tampines are another side that could still find another level of consistency and they might feel they could have gotten a more positive result against PSM had they not played an hour with a numerical deficit following the 30th-minute dismissal of Christopher van Huizen.

While the Stags can no longer finish top of the group, there remains a chance they could advance as the best runners-up in the ASEAN Zone.

Viettel, Hougang set for outright duel for knockout berth

It does not get much more exciting than this: two teams with a perfect record thus far, and taking on one another in an outright duel for top spot in Group I -- and a guaranteed place in the zonal semifinals.

On paper, Viettel will head into Thursday's decider as favourites given their experience of having competed in the AFC Champions League in 2021.

Still, they were far from convincing in Monday's narrow 1-0 victory over Phnom Penh Crown especially after a 5-1 rout of Young Elephants previously.

On the flipside, Hougang United showed several vulnerabilities in their opening-day 4-3 win over Phnom Penh Crown but were then far more assured when they beat Young Elephants 3-1.

While Viettel arguably hold the edge in experience and overall ability, Hougang are no pushovers themselves and might just be heading into the crucial tie higher in confidence.

Phnom Penh Crown and Young Elephants are two of the three teams already eliminated from qualifying equation, but will still be looking to fly the flag for Cambodia and Laos respectively in a clash of two neighbouring countries.