Qatar were well beaten in Sunday’s opening game of the 2022 World Cup, as Enner Valencia’s double earned Ecuador the three points.
After 12 years preparing for their tournament debut, Qatar won’t look back on it with much fondness. Felix Sánchez’s men were comfortably second-best to Ecuador in Sunday’s opening game of the 2022 World Cup, as Enner Valencia’s first-half double gave the South Americans a 2-0 win Al Bayt Stadium.
- Valencia vanquishes Qatar
Valencia had a second-minute goal ruled out for offside, but when Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb brought him down in the box just over 10 minutes later, the Fenerbahce forward finished coolly from the spot.
It is the first time that the opening goal of a World Cup has been a penalty.
Shortly after the half-hour mark, Valencia doubled Ecuador’s lead with a fine header. Ángelo Preciado crossed from the right, and the 33-year-old powered a low effort into Al Sheeb’s right-hand corner.
The closest Qatar came was a Mohammed Muntari shot with time running out at Al Bayt. Latching on to a long clearance, the substitute met the bouncing ball with a powerful shot that dropped just over Hernán Galíndez’s crossbar.
- Man of the match: Enner Valencia
The identity of the man of the match is no surprise: Valencia’s points-winning double leaves Ecuador with an excellent chance of reaching the World Cup knockout stages for only the second time in their history.
- Qatar left with battle to avoid early exit
As for Qatar, the bad news is that the Ecuadorians are, on paper, their most manageable opponents in Group A. Next up for the Maroon is a clash with African champions Senegal on Friday, before they play their final first-round game against the Netherlands, the strongest nation in the group.
Since an opening group phase was introduced at the World Cup in 1950, only one host nation – South Africa in 2010 – has failed to progress to the final stages. Qatar now face steep uphill battle to avoid becoming the second.
Meanwhile, Ecuador meet the Dutch on Friday, before taking on Senegal on matchday three in a clash that could well be a playoff for a last-16 spot.