Ecuador Wins World Cup Opening Match 2-0, Spoils Qatar's Debut originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
A day of celebration and promise quickly turned sour for Qatar in the opening match of the 2022 World Cup.
Ecuador scored early to put this one out of reach, cruising to a 2-0 win over the host nation on Sunday.
Enner Valencia scored both goals for Ecuador, while goalkeeper Hernán Galíndez posted a clean sheet. Qatar didn’t have any shots on goal in its five attempts.
The game began with immediate controversy, when Valencia appeared to score in the third minute on a header. After VAR review, an offside ruling was made and the goal was disallowed.
Moments later, Valencia got another chance. Qatar goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb fouled Valencia as the forward attacked the net, tripping Valencia with his arm while going for the ball.
That led to a penalty kick, which Valencia calmly sent into the back of the net in the 16th minute for the first goal of the tournament.
Ecuador continued to dominate the time of possession battle through the middle stages of the first half. It had several opportunities to extend the lead before finally doing so in the 31st minute.
Defender Ángelo Preciado fired a right-footed cross into the box, where Valencia was left free and headed in his second goal.
Qatar’s greatest scoring chance came in the final seconds of stoppage time in the first half. Almoez Ali had a chance to knock in a header, but missed wide before the whistle blew to end the half.
The second half was played at a much slower pace, with neither team generating momentum for scoring opportunities in the first 15 minutes.
Qatar had the first chance in the 62nd minute, but Pedro Miguel missed wide left on a header to keep the deficit at 2-0.
The game continued its staggered play with several injury stoppages, yellow cards and substitutions in the second half. There were six yellow cards in the match – four for Qatar, two for Ecuador.
The host nation had one final chance to score in the 86th minute. Mohammed Muntari got behind the defense and shot it with his right foot from 25 yards out, but the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Qatar is now facing an uphill climb to emerge out of Group A, which also includes the Netherlands and Senegal. Winning your first match is often critical at the World Cup – 84% of teams that win their first game advance to the knockout stage, while just 11% of teams that lose their first game advance.
Ecuador and Qatar won’t return to the pitch until Friday for their second games of the group stage. Ecuador will face the Netherlands at 11 a.m. ET after Qatar battles Senegal at 8 a.m. ET.