Qatar’s fantastic opening ceremony set the home side up for disappointment, as Enner Valencia’s double gave Ecuador a 0 - 2 win in the 2022 World Cup opener.
It wasn’t a rosy start for Ecuador, who controversially had an opener from Valencia ruled out for a marginal offside in the build up.
Rumours of potential bribes from Qatari officials were soon dismissed however, as referee Daniele Orsato awarded the visitors a penalty. Goalkeeper Saad Alsheeb clipped Enner Valencia after he’d run through on goal, allowing the Fenerbahce striker to convert from the spot 16 minutes in.
Just 15 minutes later, the former Everton and West Ham striker bagged another goal, converting a stunning header from the centre of the box into the bottom left corner. The cross from Angelo Preciado was equally as special as the finish from Valencia, consolidating Ecuador’s control of the game.
There was a brief scare for the South American side, as it looked as though they may have lost Enner Valencia to injury at the end of the first half.
Their goalscorer emerged for the second half however, and was able to continue until the 75th minute when he called time on his record-breaking game. Valencia is now Ecuador’s all-time leading goalscorer at World Cup Finals, netting his fourth and fifth tournament goals on Sunday.
Qatar, whilst disappointing, did have a couple of chances. The best of them came while Ecuador were down to ten men treating Enner Valencia, just before half-time. A lovely ball into the box was headed wide by Ali Almoez right in front of goal, wasting the only real chance the hosts had.
In the second-half, whilst Ecuador slowed the game right down, Qatar did manage a couple of half chances in what was a far emptier stadium. The Ecuador fans were more impressive than their team.
Pedro Miguel had a header go just wide from the edge of the penalty area ten minutes after the restart, and Akram Afif’s shot from 25 yards in the 75 minute wasn’t too far away either.
The most exciting moment of the half was when Mohammed Muntari chanelled his inner Pajtim Kasami and attempted an outrageous volley over his shoulder from the corner of the penalty area. He didn’t miss by much either, hitting the roof of the net and panicking Ecuador goalkeeper Hernan Galindez.
At the other end, substitute Kevin Rodriguez should’ve made it three for Ecuador right before full-time. The young midfielder was unmarked to meet a 94th minute corner, but his header was a way off target.
Ultimately Qatar just weren’t good enough to challenge Ecuador. The South American side kept their seventh straight clean sheet and won the first game of the tournament in style.
Even though Qatar’s performance was quite disappointing, the opening ceremony certainly wasn’t.
Celebrity appearances included a monologue from Morgan Freeman, a performance from South Korean singer Jung Kook and a few songs from Qatari singer Fahad Al-Kubaisi.
The highlight of the ceremony thought was the mascot parade. Prior to the unveiling of La’eeb, the 2022 mascot, all previous World Cup mascots paraded the pitch, sparking great memories of previous editions of the tournament.
Before kick-off Gianni Infantino gave a speech to officially open the tournament in Qatari, Spanish (for the Ecuador fans) and English.
That was about it in terms of positives for Qatar though, as their team failed to turn up for the big occasion.
Ecuador were stronger, quicker and ultimately better in every department, thoroughly deserving of the first three points of the 2022 World Cup.
Qatar now have to get a result against Senegal on Friday to remain in the running for a knockout stage place. Ecuador meanwhile will take on the Netherlands in a huge test for their tournament ambitions.
One down, 63 to go!