Thailand, Vietnam claim opening wins at Southeast Asian Games to set the pace that Malaysia will have to follow

Record 16-time men's football champions Thailand got off to a winning start at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games after cruising to a 3-1 win over Singapore in Group B on Sunday. Football Association of Singapore

They may have done so with differing degrees of style but defending champions Vietnam and record 16-time gold medallists Thailand were both able to ultimately do what was required of them on Sunday.

That was to get their respective Group B campaigns in the men's football tournament at the 32nd Southeast Asian Games off to a winning start.

And in doing so, the Thais and the Vietnamese have set the pace that rivals Malaysia will now have to follow in what has been described as the tournament's Group of Death.

Thailand were first to be in action at Visakha Stadium and were always in control after establishing a two-goal lead by the 38th minute courtesy of goals from Teerasak Poeiphimai and Achitpol Keereerom.

Nicky Melvin Singh did reduce the deficit for Singapore shortly before halftime but they never really looked like troubling their superior opposition, who went on to seal a comfortable triumph through a third goal by Purachet Thodsanit.

Next up in action were Vietnam and it also looked like they would be coasting to victory against Laos when they took the lead after just four minutes through a brilliant looping header by Nguyen Van Tung.

But surprisingly, against a side many expect to finish bottom of Group B, Vietnam not only struggled to break down a stubborn opposition defence but also had their goal threatened on a few occasions.

In the end, though, the Vietnamese' class and experience showed as did enough to hold on to the win even before adding a second late own when Nguyen Quoc Viet popped up at the far post to apply the finishing touch to a clinical foray forward.

With both the 2021 finallists off the mark, it will now be on Malaysia to follow suit after they sat out the opening action of the odd-numbered group.

Considering the Malaysians along with Thailand and Vietnam have combined to win the gold medal in the past 15 editions of the SEA Games -- dating all the way back to 1993 -- but with only semifinal berths up for grabs, it is easy to see why Group B has been identified as the tougher of the two.

Every win and every point will count, which is why it did not matter how the Thais and the Vietnamese got the job done as long as they picked up the victory on Sunday.

It will now be Malaysia's turn to do so on Wednesday and the positive for them is that they could have been handed a far trickier start to their campaign.

Instead, they have an excellent chance of also beginning with a win against Laos, bearing in mind that the minnows did already show against Vietnam that they are hardly pushovers.

There is every chance that Group B will live up to the hype as a Group of Death that will go all the way down to the wire.

But given the quality of the sides involved, it could easily turn into a two-team procession to the semifinals if any of the trio make even one wrong move.

The pressure is now on Malaysia to ensure that is not the case as soon as Wednesday.