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Valencia stars as Ecuador claim first win over World Cup hosts Qatar

My Football FactsArticles

By Martin Graham | 21st Nov 2022

The curtain of the 2022 FIFA World Cup was raised in grand fashion with a phenomenal opening ceremony before the football began. It was only the first game of the brand new World Cup already served up a piece of history, and not the best kind for Qatar.

The World Cup hosts became the first nation to lose their opening match as the Tournament hosts. A brace from Enner Valencia was enough for Ecuador to secure all three points in an easy win.

Valencia thought he had opened the scoring two minutes after kickoff when a freekick played into the penalty area led to the Qatar keeper misjudging the flight of the ball two times.

The chaos in the box saw the ball get to Enner Valencia who was happy to head the ball home. The Ecuador captain wheeled away in celebration but that happiness was short lived as the goal was ruled out for offside by the semi-automatic offside technology. They may have been denied the opening goal but they didn’t stop piling on the pressure.

They were eventually rewarded and Enner Valencia was once again involved. This time he was tripped in the box by Saad Al Sheeb in the Qatar goal. The keeper was shown a yellow card and Valencia added salt to his wounds by converting the resulting penalty to give his country a deserved lead.

15 minutes later, Enner Valencia got his and Ecuador’s second goal of the game. A good cross from the right wing by Angelo Preciado was met by the head of Valencia and into the left hand corner of the goal and there was nothing the goalkeeper could do about it. There was a massive exodus from Qatar supporters as they believed their loss was already a sure thing.

In the second half, Ecuador had a good chance to make it 3-0 after Romario Ibarra was played through on goal but his curling shot was saved well by the keeper.

Qatar were unable to create many good chances apart from the odd long range shot with their best chance falling to Mohammed Muntari five minutes from time. The striker showed great pace to reach a long pass from the back but his volley hit the roof of the net. At this point, the stadium was virtually empty and all the Qatar supporters had gone home.

After the match, Qatar coach Felix Sanchez expressed his disappointment in the start his team made.

He said: “There’s no excuse, we want to congratulate our opponents, they deserved to win.”

“There is a lot of room for improvement. Maybe the responsibility and nerves got the best of us. We didn’t start well. It was a terrible start actually.”

He also claimed that the support from the fans was good even though the stadium was almost half empty by half time.

“We felt backed and supported and we hope for the next game, people will feel prouder and keep supporting us to the end of the tournament. The atmosphere was great, people were very much looking forward to this game.”

“We knew (a defeat) could happen and the result can sometimes be difficult. We will try to learn from today and I’m completely sure we will make people feel happier with our performance.”

Ecuador’s manager, Gustavo Alfaro praised his team for their victory but said he was not totally satisfied and his team can still get better.

“The most important thing today was to win. I’m not totally satisfied because we know there are a lot of things we can improve, but we are all learning, including me,” the Argentine coach told a post-match press conference at the Al Bayt Stadium.

“It’s a great victory. All games in the World Cup are difficult but the opening match against the tournament hosts involves more tension.

“We were good in this match but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. We are in a period of construction. We know that what we achieved in the (South America zone) qualifiers isn’t enough. Here we are up against the best teams in the world. The times are short between each game.”

Qatar face Senegal next on the 25th of November while Ecuador will be looking to make it two wins from two when they take on the Netherlands on the same day.

Martin Graham is an MFF sports writer

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