Thailand kicked off their campaign for the coveted men's football crown of the 2023 SEA Games with a convincing 3-1 victory over Singapore at Phnom Penh's Prince Stadium on Sunday.
Thailand, the most successful team in the men's football competition of the biennial multisport tournament, are hoping to claim their 17th title in the event.
The War Elephants were denied the gold medal in the previous two editions of the Games by arch-rivals Vietnam.
Thailand started off well in their first Group B game with a Leon James shot being warded off by a Singapore defender in the opening minute.
However, the Thais did not take long to put one on the board.
An Achitpol Kirirom header bounced back off a post to Teerasak Poeiphimai who had no trouble in guiding the ball into the net in the seventh minute.
The Thais dominated the midfield and launched many attacks. The national U22 squad were rewarded again for their efforts when Purachate Todsanit set up Achitpol to double the lead after 38 minutes.
Singapore pulled one back shortly before half-time after Thailand goalkeeper Somponwit Rakyard fumbled a save and Nicky Marvin pounced on the opportunity to make it 2-1.
The War Elephants refused to relinquish their grip on the match in the second half and put the game out of Singapore's reach five minutes after the break when Purachate tapped a pinpoint Pongsakorn Treesart cross home.
The Thais didn't have much trouble in defending the big lead until end of the match.
The War Elephants will play their second Group B game against arch-rivals Malaysia on Saturday at the same venue.
The other two teams in the tough group are two-time defending champions Vietnam and Laos.
Chaba Kaew confident
The Thai women's football team left for Cambodia on Sunday morning to take part in the 2023 SEA Games.
The Chaba Kaew coach Naruepol Kaenson said before departure that she had full faith in her players.
"We have prepared the team well and are ready for the tournament," said Naruepol.
"We have selected the best players and I am confident that they will deliver. This is the new generation of players so we can expect some exciting action.
"The weather in the host country is quite similar to Thailand but we are ready for all challenges.
They will play their first game with Singapore on Wednesday at 4pm.