Enner Valencia’s two first-half goals led Ecuador to a dominant 2-0 victory over Qatar as the home nation froze on their big night with an error-strewn display that left them as the first World Cup hosts to lose their opening game.
Valencia, who had already had a third-minute header ruled out by VAR for offside, slotted in the tournament’s opening goal from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after being brought down by nervous-looking goalkeeper Saad Alsheeb.
He powered home a 31st-minute header for the second and the South Americans then cruised home as an outclassed Qatar struggled to mount any meaningful attacks and had only a fluffed header by Almoez Ali to show for their limited efforts.
The other teams in Group A, Senegal and the Netherlands, meet in one of three games on Monday.
Relive the action with our live blog below.
Qatar’s opening World Cup impression slips into disaster on and off the pitch
Rising out of the desert and out of nothing, the Al Bayt Stadium provides such an arresting sight that it made for a symbolic choice to host the opening game of the first World Cup ever staged in the Middle East. For the Al Bayt, perhaps, read Qatar, propelled to prominence by its vast resources and huge ambitions, showcasing them via football.
The Al Bayt’s roof is modelled on Bedouin tents rather than, say, the Bet365 Stadium in Stoke, lending it a local feel. Outside it, there was a parade of camels, all ridden by men in thawbs, to welcome visitors. For the avoidance of doubt, that is also something rarely seen in Stoke, even if Tony Pulis may have appreciated the camels’ ability to intimidate.
On a night that offered an illustration of what Qatar’s £220 billion did and did not buy them, the first impression, of the Al Bayt coming into view, may have been the most impressive. A spectacular light show and a firework display that went off perfectly followed, but Qatar delivered neither the performance the hosts required nor the logistical competence to ensure everything worked smoothly.
Qatar delivered neither the performance the hosts required nor the logistical competence to ensure everything worked smoothly.
World Cup fans left baffled as VAR rules out Ecuador goal vs Qatar
There was confusion and controversy within minutes of the opening match of the Qatar World Cup after Ecuador had a goal disallowed against the host country by VAR using Fifa’s new semi-automated offside system.
Ecuador thought they had taken a lead against Qatar after just two minutes when captain Enner Valencia powered in a header at the back post following a set-piece routine.
But, after a delay of almost two minutes, referee Daniele Orsato ruled out the goal and signalled that there had been an offside in the build-up.
The replays of the goal did not make clear who had been offside, resulting in considerable confusion among fans watching on TV and in the stadium.
The decision was ulimately correct but caused considerable confusion among fans watching on TV and in the stadium
Enner Valencia underlines World Cup heritage with opening brace against Qatar
Outside of World Cup, the most notable incident in the career of Enner Valencia perhaps came as he lay on the back of a golf buggy and was chased, cartoon style, out of a stadium by police over allegations of unpaid alimony to his ex-wife. In World Cups, however, Ecuador’s record goalscorer has now made his mark at two tournaments, scoring the opening goals of Qatar against the hosts to trigger thousands to leave their seats and consigning the curtain-raiser to a rather drab formality.
Valencia did not quite make World Cup history. Only two players, and none since 1934, had scored a hat-trick in the opening match of the tournament and for over an hour it was a record that was in reach. After winning and scoring a penalty, and then powering a brilliant header into the corner, he may have even had a first-half hat-trick if Ecuador did not have an opening goal disallowed by Fifa’s semi-automated offside system by VAR - which came much to the confusion of everyone watching at the stadium and at home.
The 33-year-old also departed early, on the 75th minute, as a result of some bruising challenges from Qatar in the opening half. By that point, Ecuador’s captain had done his job, with an opening victory allowing La Tri to go into matches against Netherlands and Senegal without the same pressure of needing to win.
The former West Ham and Everton striker took his tally of World Cup goals to five as he made his mark in the opening game of the tournament
FT Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
Enner Valencia is now Ecuador’s highest ever goalscorer at the World Cup, netting his fourth and fifth goals in the competition against Qatar this evening.
He has netted all five goals in the 2014 and 2022 World Cups. That makes him the first player to score five consecutive World Cup goals for a South American nation.
Ecuador defeat Qatar in World Cup opener resembling political summit as thousands leave early
The 22nd World Cup opening game really was not a football match, and not just because it was such an easy Ecuador win. What we actually watched was a political summit, that was a genuine geo-political event.
You only had to look at the most lucrative seats of all, rather than the swathes of empty ones as the hosts were beaten 2-0.
There, Fifa president Gianni Infantino sat between the Emir of Qatar and Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohamed Bin Salman, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan having shaken hands with Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi for the first time earlier on.
If they were paying much attention to the pitch itself, it’s difficult to describe what they actually watched. It in no way resembled a normal football match, and the second half barely mattered at all.
There was an odd sort of morality play to it, mind, even amid the many shames of this World Cup.
Qatar 0-2 Ecuador: Enner Valencia scored twice in the first half against the hosts, leading to swathes of empty seats following the break
Thousands of Qatar fans appear to leave World Cup opener at half-time
Thousands of Qatar fans appeared to leave at half-time of the opening game of the World Cup, with their team already 2-0 down against Ecuador.
Hosts Qatar opened the 2022 edition of the tournament on Sunday (20 November) with a Group A match against Ecuador, who were controversially denied an early goal due to offside but took a 2-0 lead into the break – and maintained it until full time.
Ecuador captain Enner Valencia netted the disallowed opener before scoring from the penalty spot on 16 minutes then with a header on 31 minutes.
Thousands of Qatar fans then left the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor at half-time, with their seats remaining empty long after the second half had begun.
Ecuador took a 2-0 lead into the break and maintained it until the final whistle
FT Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
The opening 20 minutes of this match were fully enthralling and could have led to an unforgettable World Cup opener. Ecuador’s second goal killed off all hope of a Qatar revival and they closed out the game easily enough.
FT Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
It was an easy victory in the end of Ecuador.
They’ve got some points on the board early and their encounter with whichever team loses out of Senegal and the Netherlands tomorrow will be a cracker.
That win will put some confidence into the South American side.
Full-time: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
90+5 mins: There’s the full-time whistle! Ecuador triumph in the opening encounter of the 2022 World Cup. They did the business in an energetic first half that blew the host nation away.
Two goals and one disallowed from captain Enner Valencia put them comfortably ahead and Qatar had no answer. They become the first host nation to lose the opening game of the World Cup.
Ecuador move to the top of Group A with three points. The second match in this group takes place tomorrow as Senegal take on the Netherlands.
Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
90 mins: Five minutes of added time to go. All the Ecuador fans have remained in the stadium and they’re having a blast. It’s going to be an opening day victory for the team from South America.
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