Ecuador eased past hosts Qatar to win the opening game of the 2022 World Cup and put themselves in a very promising position in Group A.
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It is the first time in World Cup history that a host nation has lost its opening game and Qatar were outclassed throughout, as the 12-year wait to welcome the world seemed to get the best of their players as the team froze.
After having an early goal ruled out by VAR for a marginal, and somewhat bizarre, offside, Enner Valencia slotted home a penalty kick and sent home a header in the first half to give Ecuador a commanding lead.
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Ecuador’s captain became their all-time leading goalscorer at the World Cup in the process.
La Tri never looked under pressure, although Qatar did have a big chance at the end of the first half but Almoez Ali put a free header wide from six yards out.
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The victory gets Ecuador off and running with three points on the board as they face the Netherlands next in Group A on Friday. Qatar have it all to do as they face reigning African champs Senegal (sans Sadio Mane) on the same day.
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Gulf in class clear to see as Valencia provides clinical edge
Everything about this was one-sided. Qatar looked nervous from the start and Ecuador latched onto that indecisiveness and were absolutely ruthless. Ecuador kept things very simple and got crosses into the box and sprung into life when they won the ball back and had real quality with their passing and runs.
Enner Valencia, 33, has been incredible for Fenerbahce this season, scoring 13 goals in 12 appearances to lead the goalscoring charts in Turkey’s top-flight. He provided a cutting edge in the final third and Ecuador’s entire team is set up to counter and try to find Valencia early. They will hope the knee injury he picked up in the first half and tried to run off isn’t too serious as he holds the key to them picking up points against Senegal and the Netherlands to try and get into the last 16. As for Qatar, they have a huge uphill task to get out of the group and it looks like the hosts will be heading out early.
Stars of the show
Enner Valencia: His two goals and a classy display up top made the difference. He’s the talisman for Ecuador and the team is set up to find him on the counter.
Angelo Preciado: Fine assists for Valencia’s second goal and the right back was excellent as he pushed forward time and time again.
How to watch Qatar vs Ecuador live, stream link and start time + opening ceremony!
Kick off: 11am ET, Sunday
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)
Key storylines, players to watch closely
Qatar have been led by Spanish coach Felix Sanchez since 2017 and their entire squad plays in the domestic league. This is a tight-knit group and five of their World Cup squad have over 100 caps, as they are primed and ready for a first-ever World Cup appearance. Qatar’s captain Hassan Al Haydos has an incredible 169 caps to his name and the Al Saad star has 36 goals at international level. Almoez Ali and Akram Afif are also dangerous up top, while Abdulaziz Hatem is a star in midfield.
For Ecuador, the young aforementioned group are extremely talented but Enner Valencia is La Tri’s main man. He’s scored 35 goals in 74 outings and he’s having a sensational season with Turkish giants Fenerbahce as he’s scored 13 goals in 12 league games. To get out of World Cup qualifying in South America is a huge achievement and Ecuador should not be underestimated. Young forward Gonzalo Plata is also a player to watch out for. They reached the last 16 of the 2006 World Cup and have qualified for four of the last six tournaments.
Qatar quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 50
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 0
How they qualified: As hosts
Coach: Felix Sanchez
Key players: Abdelkarim Hassan, Almoez Ali, Hassan Al-Haydos
Ecuador quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 44
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 3
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (4th place)
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro
Key players: Enner Valencia, Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan
Ecuador cruises past hosts Qatar to win World Cup opener originally appeared on NBCSports.com