Qatar Loses To Ecuador, Becomes First World Cup Hosts to Lose Opening Match

by: AugustineMbam


Bahrain’s AL KHOR — The highway stretches into the distance, surface immaculate, and in the distance, slowly fading, are the towering glass spires of Doha. It passes by the abandoned city of Lusail, with its cranes frozen in the sand. Only the enormous outline of the Al Bayt Stadium can be seen on the horizon, and for miles, all that is there is asphalt, sand, and sky.

As they exited Qatar’s box-fresh subway system, fans had been pouring toward the stadium all day, clogging the road with traffic, as if the stadium itself, an oasis of presence in a landscape defined by absence, had some sort of magnetism.

Ecuador eased past World Cup debutants Qatar 2-0 on Sunday with two goals from veteran striker Enner Valencia in the first opening-game defeat for a host nation in the tournament’s history.

Ecuador players celebrating a goal

Valencia scored an early penalty and added a well-taken 31st-minute header to give the South Americans a commanding first-half lead as the Qataris looked overcome by the significance of the occasion.

“This was not what we were hoping for,” Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said.

“There is no excuse, I want to congratulate our opponents Ecuador. There is a lot of room for improvement.

“We did not play at our best level. Maybe the responsibility and the nerves got the better of us. We just have to let go and forget about it, and be more competitive. We can do it.”

It could have been even worse for the hosts in front of a 67,372-fan crowd at the Al Bayt Stadium had Valencia, 33, not had a third-minute header disallowed for a marginal offside after goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb had flapped at the ball.

It was al-Sheeb who later tripped Valencia when he was through on goal and then dived the wrong way as the Ecuadorian calmly dispatched the resulting penalty in the 16th minute.

For his second, Valencia was unmarked but still showed great technique to stoop and take Angelo Preciado’s cross almost from behind him to head past al-Sheeb again.

“I dreamt so many times about winning this opening match. This was a dream that I managed to score and help my team get the three points,” Valencia said.

“We managed to score a couple of quick goals, which helped us to get control of the game and win the three points … We think we can go very far and perform well.”

That goal killed the game as a contest, and the second half was played slowly, with many Qatar fans leaving before the end as Ecuador’s fans chanted, “Olé!”

Despite a long time to bond and train together, including summer camps in Europe, Qatar looked largely toothless. Almoez Ali had their best chance at the end of the first half, heading wide but then judged offside.

Mohammed Muntari also fired over in the dying minutes.

Both sides now have to play Senegal and the Netherlands in the group stage, with Qatar’s chances of picking up points or qualifying looking slim on this performance.

Ecuador dreams of surpassing their best previous World Cup showing when they reached the last 16 in 2006.

Qatar vs. Ecuador- Highlights of the Qatar world cup

1st minute: Qatar sent a long ball towards the Ecuador box from kickoff, but it was dealt with very calmly. Get it launched!

3rd minute: GOOOOAAAALLLL!!!! HANG ON, NOOO!!!!!

8th minute: Despite that gigantic let-off, Qatar is still yet to settle. Another Estupinan ball towards the box, this time from open play, causes consternation

13th minute: Long wait for the corner as the referee tidies up some nonsense between the players in the six-yard box. Plata’s delivery is headed clear at the near post.

15th minute: Penalty to Ecuador!!!!

Valencia streams through the middle of the Qatar defense, Al Sheeb brings him down, and it’s a clear penalty.

18th minute: Another dicey moment for Al-Sheeb. Estrada gets on the end of a Valencia cross, can’t get it on target, and is clattered by the wayward gloveman. You get the impression that Ecuador will try to keep him as busy as possible.

31st minute: Brighton’s Caicedo is booked. No stranger to a yellow card, the combative midfielder, but that’s soft. Qatar lumps the free-kick out of play. They’ve been awful so far.

31st minute: GOOOOAAAALLLLLL!!!!! Valencia!!!!

Who had Enner Valencia for the golden boot? Caicedo drives towards a callow Qatari defensive line. The ball is worked out to the right from where Preciado sends in a delicious cross. Valencia finds the header to match at the far post, arrowing the ball down into the bottom corner. Irrespective of whether or not Al-Sheeb is playing like a competition winner, he had no chance there.

45th minute: Five minutes of stoppage time after that pretty long VAR delay after Valencia’s disallowed goal and the treatment just delivered to Ecuador’s two-goal hero. At this stage, the 2022 World Cup is Enner Valencia’s world, and we’re just living in it.

46th minute: We’re back underway. Ecuador has not conceded in any of their past six games, and that missed Ali chance was the only touch Qatar had inside the opposition penalty area during the first half. It makes a 2-0 lead feel pretty safe, doesn’t it?

54th minute: That’s the sort of South American brilliance we tune into World Cups for. Plata sashays through a couple of challenges in midfield. He’s heading out to the left but pivots to spin a wonderful cross behind the Qatar defense. Estrada can only manage an air shot at it. It could have been 3-0.

62nd minute: Half a chance for Qatar as Miguel times his run well and catches Estupinan napping at the back post. He makes a good connection from 15 yards, but it’s wide. Suppose Ali had met Al-Haydos’ cross that cleanly in first-half stoppage time. The hosts would be on the scoresheet.

75th minute: An electric buzz of excitement through the stadium as Afif gets the ball about 30 yards from the goal. The locals will have wanted to see so much more of his this evening. A speculative shot flies over.

85th minute: Muntari darts behind the Ecuador defense and lashes a bouncing ball goalwards from the right-hand corner of the penalty area. That’s a fine effort. It ripples the top of the netting, and some in the stadium thought it was in. Can Sanchez’s men set up a grandstand finish?

90th minute: Ecuador’s fans are throwing around “OLES” with gusto as their team hog the ball. There’ll be five additional minutes for Qatar to endure.

Fulltime: Job done for Ecuador, who began with an intensity Qatar could not handle and then closed things out with a top-level experience. Back to the drawing board for the hosts.

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