Qatar fell to earth with the opening loss

Qatar fell to earth with the opening loss

After each day of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Sportsnet.ca’s World Cup Daily Blog will recap the day’s events and look ahead to the next day’s slate of games.

Here’s what happened on Sunday, in case you missed it…

The results

Qatar 0, Ecuador 2 in Al Khor: Match Report | Match Status

Main points of conversation

Qatar is making history for all the wrong reasons

Qatar finally had their day in the sun as World Cup hosts when the tournament kicked off on Sunday. Soon after, reality set in for the team from the Gulf nation.

Qatar beat Canada 2-0 in an international friendly in Vienna in September, a game that was notable for a number of reasons, including how intimidating the Qataris looked. But Qatar’s first World Cup was something else, as it was easily the worst performance by a host nation in the tournament’s history.

Qatar were comprehensively beaten in Group A by a 2-0 defeat to Ecuador, who became the first host nation to lose their opening match of the tournament. Prior to that, the host nation had never lost its opening game in the 21st World Cup, going a combined 16-0-6 in 1930 (there were two hosts in 2002). .

Qatar struggled to string together passes in the opening 45 minutes, unable to deal with Ecuador’s set-piece deliveries or his crosses into the box, and finished the game without registering a shot on target. deliver

How ineffective was the attack on Qatar? Consider this: They didn’t have a single touch of the ball in Ecuador’s 18-yard box until the last few minutes of the first half.

Only one host nation has failed to get out of the group stage at the World Cup. But at least when South Africa beat me in 2010 they did so by scoring a goal and getting a point.

It is hard to imagine that a Qatari team made up of all 26 players who play in the country’s most modest domestic league will even be able to manage what South Africa did 12 years ago. It only gets more difficult for Qatar as their next games are against African champions Senegal and European giants Netherlands.

Ener Valencia shines in victory for Ecuador

It was a complete team performance from Ecuador, who dominated their opponents in every aspect of the game. But one contributor to the South Americans’ cause stood above the rest: Ener Valencia.

The experienced striker is playing in his second World Cup since debuting at the tournament in 2014, and the 33-year-old certainly made up for lost time by scoring twice in the first 31 minutes to guide his country to victory. .

The Fenerbahce forward looked set to score after just three minutes, but the goal was disallowed on an offside call after a VAR review. Valencia would not be denied, though, and gave Ecuador the lead after just 13 minutes when he converted with delight from the penalty spot.

Just after the half-hour mark, Valencia did it again, this time connecting on a powerful header that went past Qatari goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheib after a dangerous cross was flicked into the box by teammate Angelo Priado.

As Ecuador’s captain and all-time top goalscorer (37 goals in 75 games), Valencia has now scored his country’s last five World Cup goals. If he starts scoring in his team’s next Group A match, he will tie the tournament record for consecutive goals for a team held by Eusebio (Portugal, 1966), Paolo Rossi (Italy, 1982 ) and conducted by Oleg Salenko (Russia, 1994). ), who all scored six consecutive runs for their respective countries.

Questions have been raised from Ecuador ahead of the World Cup, mostly about who will produce the goals for this attacking-challenged side. Valencia stepped up in a big way as the team’s main point of reference in attack on Sunday, but he was carried off the pitch in the 76th minute and had to leave the game. Whether he is seriously injured remains to be seen, but the South Americans will be hoping Valencia continue based on the way they terrorized Qatar’s defence.

Ecuador’s Ener Valencia celebrates his team’s second goal against Qatar in the World Cup group stage match at Al Bait Stadium in Al Khor, Sunday, November 20, 2022. (Mano Fernandez/AP)

Goal of the day

Ecuador doubled their advantage in the 31st minute when Preciado scored a precise and dangerous goal deep inside Qatar’s penalty area. Valencia connected on a powerful header that was just inside the near post and out of the reach of goalkeeper Saad El Shaib, who tried to dive.

The moment of the day

After months of waiting, the World Cup finally kicked off on Sunday, with the opening match officially kicking off the month-long celebration of soccer. Interestingly, Qatar could not wait for the countdown to end and actually started the match seconds early.

Daily rate

“What unites us here at this moment is greater than what divides us. How can we make it last longer than we have today. – Actor Morgan Freeman at Sunday’s opening ceremony.

Actor Morgan Freeman speaks during the opening ceremony for the World Cup before the Group A soccer match between Qatar and Ecuador, at Al Bait Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (Mano Fernandez/AP)

Six pack of statistics

Valencia’s first goal on Sunday marked the first time the opening goal of a World Cup tournament has been scored from the penalty spot.

• An Ecuadorian goal was disallowed after a VAR review in the third minute. It is the first time in World Cup history that a goal has been disallowed by VAR – it never happened four years ago in Russia.

• At 33 years and 16 days, Valencia is the oldest player to score in a World Cup opener, beating the record previously held by Italy’s Alessandro Altubelli (30 years and 184 days) against Bulgaria in 1986. had made

Qatar is only the third country to hold a World Cup for the first time while hosting the tournament, joining Uruguay (in 1930) and Italy (in 1934).

• Ecuador have now gone seven games in a row without conceding a goal. The South American defense has not been broken since a 1-1 draw with Argentina on March 29, 2022, in a World Cup qualifier.

• Valencia have scored on 50 percent of their shots at the World Cup (five goals in 10 shots).

Some stats courtesy of Opta.

SPORTSNET in Qatar

Sportsnet.ca contributor Peter Galindo is in Qatar covering the World Cup. He took part in Canada’s training session on Sunday when Alphonso Davies, who has been suffering from a hamstring injury, trained with the Test.

Canada plays its first match against Belgium on Wednesday.

Three stars of the day

1. Ener Valencia, Ecuador: The Fenerbahce forward effectively led the attacking line for the Ecuadorians and grabbed a brace to guide his country to a comfortable victory.

2. Jackson Mendez, Ecuador: The MLS star was excellent at anchoring his team’s midfield with his interceptions to help link up the backline and attack.

3. Moisés Caicedo, Ecuador: The 21-year-old was a chapter of creativity, completing 91 percent of his passes and helping Ecuador dominate in midfield.

Looking forward to Monday

England take on Iran (8pm) and the United States take on Wales (2pm) in Group B.

But Group A offers the most interesting match of the day against the Netherlands and Senegal. Senegal had some momentum ahead of the World Cup after winning their first African Cup of Nations earlier this year. But Bayern Munich striker Sadio Mane was officially ruled out of the tournament last week due to an ankle injury. It will be interesting to see how the Africans proceed without Mane, the reigning African Player of the Year and the main reference point of the Senegalese attack.


John Molinaro is one of the leading soccer journalists in Canada, having covered the game for over 20 years for several media outlets, including Sportsnet, CBC Sports and Sun Media. He is currently the editor-in-chief of TFC Republic, a website dedicated to in-depth coverage of Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. TFC Republic can be found over here.

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