The 2022 FIFA World Cup is now well-underway after the festivities of Sunday’s opening ceremony, with hosts Qatar opening the tournament with their Group A match against Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium. Making their World Cup debut, the Qataris were forced to succumb to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Ecuadorians, with Enner Valencia bagging himself a first half brace that the Asian champions were unable to respond.
With numerous controversies surrounding Qatar’s appointment as hosts for this year’s World Cup, as well as the fact that the tournament was held at the end of the year when most European leagues are still ongoing, one might be forgiven if this year’s World Cup doesn’t have the same hype that previous tournaments had.
But after a thunderous opening ceremony that included appearances and performances from actor Morgan Freeman and Jungkook of South Korean mega-boyband BTS, everyone flocking the Al-Bayt Stadium were hyped up as a Qatar side containing some of Asia’s finest players in Almoez Ali, Saad Al-Sheeb, Hassan Al-Haydos and Akram Afif take on an Ecuador side who are making their fourth World Cup appearance.
All optimism for Qatar to spring a surprise went down the drain after Fenerbahce danger man Valencia seemingly headed Ecuador into the lead after just two minutes, however it was ruled offside by VAR.
Valencia, who also plied his trade with West Ham United and Tigres UANL in the past, then etched himself as the first scorer of the 2022 World Cup in the 16th minute, slotting home a confident penalty past Al-Sheeb after the Al-Sadd goalie had brought down Valencia in the area.
Things then went from bad to worse for Qatar as Valencia completed his brace in the 31st minute, heading home an Angelo Preciado ball past Al-Sheeb.
Qatar were limp, uninspired, and unable to pose a threat to the Ecuadorian defense as both Almoez and Afif were effectively snuffed out.
Scores of supporters left the Al-Bayt Stadium during half-time, meaning that a much vacant arena awaited both Qatar and Ecuador for the second half.
Qatar tried to chase the game throughout the second stanza but a combination of profligacy and a dominant Ecuador prevented the hosts from ever etching their mark in the game, condemning Qatar to an unwanted record as being the first World Cup host since its inception in 1930 to lose their opening game of the tournament.
As fans flock out of the Al-Bayt Stadium, Qatar were left with the prospect of becoming the first World Cup host since South Africa in 2010 to exit the tournament in the group stages, with two daunting games against Senegal and the Netherlands awaiting in the horizon.