The 2022 World Cup kicks off on Sunday with a standalone fixture between hosts Qatar and Ecuador in front of 60,000 fans at Al Bayt Stadium. Game time is scheduled for 11:00 a.m. ET (7:00 p.m. local time in Qatar) and will be broadcast on FS1.
Both teams are triple-digit longshots to win the tournament, but it’s Ecuador that is the +115 favorite on BetMGM in the opener against the hosts.
Let’s make some sense of this one, shall we?
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Qatar vs. Ecuador prediction
Handicapping international soccer tournaments is just as much an art as it is a science. The data is pretty noisy because there’s a lot of roster turnover, meaningless matches, and teams play just a few times a month, so it’s hard to rely solely on statistical data when it comes to breaking down contests between two teams.
That noise only gets more pronounced in a matchup like this one.
While we have a decent idea about the type of team Ecuador is and the level we can expect out of La Tri in this competition, handicapping Qatar is much closer to a guessing game.
For one thing, every player on Qatar’s roster has been in a tournament-specific training camp for the last six months. So while virtually every other player in this competition will have been playing for their club team since the late summer and fatigue could absolutely be an issue, Qatar’s players have been gearing up toward this match with Ecuador since May.
The rust vs. rest debate is never easy to figure out, but in this situation, you’d have to think that the hosts have a bit of an edge in terms of preparation.
Whether or not that perceived advantage is enough to overcome a wide talent gap — Qatar is the 94th-ranked team in the Action Network’s Power Ratings, while Ecuador is 29th — remains to be seen.
But there are other, uh, extenuating circumstances in play here that favor Qatar. Home-field advantage is a real thing in any sport and can influence the outcome of any contest, but with FIFA things can get, uh, peculiar.
In fact, FIFA already moved the entire competition up a day to accommodate Qatar for this match. The hosts wanted to be the only game on the Opening Day of the tournament, so the organizers bumped this match up from Nov. 21 to Nov. 20, meaning any Ecuador fan traveling to the Gulf had to re-organize their arrangements. They had 12 years to organize this event, the fact that the powers that be waited until August to change the starting date is absurd and also unsurprising given this outfit’s history.
On the pitch, you’d expect Ecuador to have plenty of the ball, with star central midfielder Moises Caicedo pulling the strings. Caicedo is easily the most talented player on either squad and should have a ton of influence on this contest since Qatar will most likely sit back and wait to counter against La Tri.
Caicedo’s supporting cast, which features Pervis Estupinan, Enner Valencia, Gonzalo Plata, Angel Mena, and Michael Estrada, is not a world-beating group. Still, it’s a couple of cuts above anything that Qatar can offer up.
Betting on the World Cup?
Both of these teams will fancy their chances in this match and will know how important getting points in their pocket out of the gates will be if they want to progress. The Netherlands are the odds-on favorite to win Group A with Senegal and Ecuador as the co-second-choices. Qatar is considered the longshot to advance, but host countries typically do progress, as only South Africa failed to do so back in 2010 (the caveat is that most of these tournaments were held in the backyards of the biggest soccer nations on the planet).
It is tempting to back Qatar given the situation and there will likely be a lot of money coming in on the hosts, but bettors can find more value backing Both Teams to Score: Yes.
Both Qatar and Ecuador will desperately want to get three points out of this contest, so you can expect to see a pretty free-flowing game with La Tri on the front foot and the Maroon sitting back and waiting to spring a counter-attack. One goal should open things up further, as it will put a ton of pressure on the team that fell behind to find an equalizer.
Qatar vs. Ecuador pick
Both Teams to Score — Yes (+104, FanDuel)