The Middle Eastern nation became the first hosts to lose a World Cup opening match
Qatar suffered defeat against Ecuador in the first match of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, as a first-half double from Ecuadorian captain Enner Valencia condemned the Qataris to become the first hosts to lose the opening game of the tournament in its 92-year history.
After a controversial build-up which involved much of the Western media fixating on Qatar’s human rights record, the football finally began on Sunday at the 60,000-seater Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, just to the north of Doha.
Qatar almost got off to the worst possible start after just three minutes when they failed to clear their lines from a free-kick, allowing Ecuador captain Valencia to head in from close range.
But the goal was ruled out for offside after intervention from VAR, triggering the first moment of the World Cup controversy on the pitch – even if analysis shared by FIFA showed the decision was correct because of a stray leg from Ecuador’s Michael Estrada.
Qatar were forced to soak up significant Ecuadorian pressure in the opening stages, ceding almost two-thirds of possession, and the South Americans did make the breakthrough in the 16th minute – again with Valencia at the heart of things.
The forward was brought down as he rounded hapless Qatari goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb, and Valencia picked himself up to coolly slot home the spot-kick for the first goal of the tournament.
The strike was a fourth at a World Cup for Valencia, adding to the three he scored at Brazil in 2014, and was the first time that the opening goal at a World Cup has come from the penalty spot.
Valencia did not have to wait long before adding to his tally, connecting with a well-placed header from a cross by Angelo Preciado to double Ecuador’s lead in the 31st minute.
Qatar’s Spanish manager Felix Sanchez looked on beleaguered from the sidelines as his team stared at unwanted World Cup history as the first hosts to lose an opening World Cup match.
Qatar improved slightly as the first half wore on, managing a first shot and almost reducing the deficit in injury time when Almoez Ali headed wide with the goal at his mercy – although replays showed he would have been ruled offside.
Ecuador were largely content to play possession football at the start of the second half, but they drew a save from Al Sheeb in the Qatari goal when he pushed away an effort from Romario Ibarra.
There was a glimmer of attacking threat from Qatar after 62 minutes, when the Portuguese-born Pedro Miguel connected with a long ball into the Ecuador box, but his header eluded teammate and Ali.
Ecuador hero Valencia was replaced by Jhon Cifuente in the 76th minute after suffering an injury, but the Fenerbahce forward’s work was already done for his team.
Qatar substitute Mohammed Muntari spurned a golden late chance for his team when played through with five minutes to spare, but lifted his effort over the Ecuador goal.
Ecuador cantered to victory in a game which will have caused significant concerns among the Qataris about just how much they can bring to their own party in footballing terms.
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