November 20, 2022 (GSN) - World Cup hosts Qatar have had a disappointing start to their campaign, with a 2-0 defeat to Ecuador leaving them facing an uphill struggle to make it out of their group in their first-ever World Cup.
Ecuador beat Qatar in the opening World Cup match, outplaying the host team 2-0 in front of more than 67,000 fans at Al Bayt Stadium.
It’s the first time in 92 years of soccer’s biggest event that a host team has lost its opening game.
Ecuador captain Enner Valencia scored both of his team’s goals in the first half of a one-sided game that wound up being a damage-limitation exercise for Qatar on one of the biggest nights in the nation’s history.
Instead, Qatar’s players, fresh from spending seven months together in a pre-tournament training camp under Sanchez, froze in front of an expectant crowd and a disciplined Ecuador team that might just pose a danger to more high-profile opponents over the next few weeks.
“This is just the start of the World Cup,” said the 33-year-old Valencia, who has now scored Ecuador’s last five goals at the World Cup, including three in 2014. “We have to keep dreaming.”
In what might go down as one of the worst displays by a host nation to open a tournament, Qatar had five shots in the match and none of them were on target. The team had only two touches inside the opposition penalty area.
Put simply, Ecuador was just too good for a team only playing at the World Cup because it is the host.
Valencia thought he had scored in the third minute when he headed in from close range following an acrobatic cross from Felix Torres. After a video review of about two minutes, Ecuadorian celebrations were cut short when the goal was ruled out for a marginal offside.
Ecuador did take the lead, however, in the 16th minute when Valencia running onto a through-ball was tripped by Saad Alsheeb after rounding the goalkeeper, who was booked for the challenge. Valencia was nonchalant as he trotted up and converted the spot kick into the bottom corner.
The 33-year-old striker then added his second in the 33rd by heading in a right-wing cross from Angelo Preciado.
With Qatar’s passes often going astray and its defensive raggedness repeatedly exposed, Ecuador had no problem holding onto its lead as Sanchez stood helpless in his technical area and the home fans fell quiet.
Many didn’t return for the second half. And heading into the final quarter of the game, thousands of seats were empty.