Qatar became the first host nation to lose the opening game of a World Cup as Enner Valencia inspired Ecuador to a dominant 2-0 victory in Group A on Sunday.
After months and years of controversy leading up to the tournament, focus turned to matters on the pitch as Qatar 2022 began, but there was no respite for the hosts as they were comprehensively outplayed throughout their first-ever World Cup match.
Having seen a third-minute header ruled out for offside, Ecuador captain Valencia wrote his name in the history books when he scored the first goal of Qatar 2022 from the penalty spot (12) before he took his tally of World Cup finals goals to five with a brilliant headed second (31).
Hosts Qatar outclassed by Ecuador in World Cup opener…
After an energetic opening ceremony, which featured Hollywood great Morgan Freeman and South Korea popstar Jung Kook, FIFA president Gianni Infantino declared, “let the show begin”, but Qatar could not have got off to a worse start.
Valencia headed Ecuador in front inside three minutes after goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb unconvincing punched clearance, only for the goal to be chalked off after a lengthy VAR check spotted an offside which wasn’t initially clear, but the Qatari reprieve was short-lived.
Goalkeeper Al-Sheeb’s hesitance to engage with Valencia as he drove into the area culminated in him recklessly tripping the Ecuador striker, who dusted himself down and nonchalantly stroked in the resulting penalty – the first time a penalty has opened the scoring at a World Cup.
The gulf in class between the two teams was underscored just after the half-hour mark when Valencia stooped to head Angelo Preciado’s cross emphatically into the Qatar net for his and Ecuador’s second.
Valencia’s game looked to have reached a premature end when he hyperextended his knee late in the first half, but he would go on to play another 30, largely uneventful minutes before eventually succumbing to the injury.
Almoez Ali spurned a glorious chance to halve the deficit on the stroke of half-time, glancing Qatar’s only credible chance wide from seven yards, and the hosts were limited to efforts from distance after the break, with shots from Akram Afif and Mohammed Muntari giving Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez something to think about.
But what the hosts lacked in attack they made up for with a spirited second-half defensive showing which prevented Ecuador from inflicting more embarrassment, though that was not enough for Qatar to avoid setting unwanted World Cup history.
0′ World Cup pre-match light show in progress
0′ Players enter the field, the World Cup opener is about to begin
0′ KICK-OFF! Who can win this match?
1′ World Cup Qatar begins!
3′ OFFSIDE! Enner Valencia’s goal disallowed
15′ Penalty Goal! Qatar 0-1 Ecuador (Enner Valencia)
19′ Unbelievable! What a miss from Estrada
21′ Yellow Card! Almoez Ali booked
28′ Yellow Card! Moises Caicedo booked
30′ GOAL! Qatar 0-2 Ecuador (Enner Valencia)
44′ Injured! Enner Valencia goes to the sideline for treatment
45′ CHANCE! Almoez Ali’s shot wide out
55′ CLOSE! Ibarra’s shot denied
61′ CHANCE! Pedro Miguel’s header wide out
75′ CLOSE! Afif’s long shot over the bar
76′ Sub! Injured Enner Valencia replaced by Cifuentes
77′ Yellow Card! Akram Afif booked
86′ NICE TRY! Muntari’s shot over the bar
Qatar XI: Saad Al-Sheeb, Hasan Al-Haydos, Abdulaziz Hatem, Karim Boudiaf, Boualem Khoukhi, Abdelkarim Hassan, Pedro Miguel, Almoez Ali, Akram Afif, Bassam Al-Rawi, Homam Ahmed
Subs: Ali Asad, Ahmed Alaaeldin, Ismaeel Mohammed, Musab Khoder, Mohammed Muntari, Assim Madibo, Salem Al-Hajri, Yousef Hassan, Tarek Salman, Mohammed Waad, Khalid Muneer Mazeed, Meshaal Barsham, Mustafa Mashaal, Naif Al-Hadhrami, Jassem Gaber Abdulsallam
Ecuador XI: Hernán Galíndez, Enner Valencia, Romario Ibarra, Michael Estrada, Jhegson Méndez, Pervis Estupiñán, Angelo Preciado, Félix Torres, Gonzalo Plata, Piero Hincapié, Moisés Caicedo
Subs: Alexander Domínguez, Ángel Mena, Robert Arboleda, Carlos Gruezo, Ayrton Preciado, Xavier Arreaga, Alan Franco, Diego Palacios, José Cifuentes, Moisés Ramírez, Djorkaeff Reasco, Jackson Porozo, Jeremy Sarmiento, William Pacho, Kevin Rodríguez