19/05/2024

Valencia celebrates his first (Twitter - @FIFAWorldCup)

The build up and anticipation to the 2022 FIFA World Cup was finally unleashed in the opening game, as Qatar struggled with the pressure and became the first host nation to lose the opening game of a World Cup.

Completely stunned, Qatar were on the back foot from the first minute. Ecuador came into the game with a clear desire to attack the defence of Qatar with quick & direct ball movement, while also forcing the host nation into a number of errors while in possession.

Enner Valencia, who was the star of the night for Ecuador, scored two goals in the first half to capitalise on the significant hold they had on the match.

The captain could have easily had a hat trick if it wasn’t for a VAR overruling in the third minute of the game, with an offside ruling disallowing Valencia’s header from close range.

Controversy surrounded the World Cup before the match started and the decision to overturn the goal only seemed to add to that, before the VAR technology proved the decision correct, showing half of Valencia’s leg offside.

Eventually from the penalty spot in the 16th minute, Valencia scored which in fact the first time an opening goal in a World Cup has come from a penalty.

Valencia then continued his scintillating performance with his second goal in the 31st minute, a perfectly struck header assisted by a beautiful cross from teammate Angelo Preciado, heaping the pain on Qatar who couldn’t seem to produce any meaningful attack.

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After missing the 2018 World Cup, Valencia restarted his magnificent form on football’s biggest stage. This isn’t the first time he’s scored a brace, doubling up in the 2014 group stage against both Switzerland and Honduras. He is now Ecuador’s all time leading FIFA World Cup goal scorer.

There were significant fears that Valencia’s match would come to a premature end and ruin his chances of a rare hat-trick, when he suffered a right knee injury late in the first half. He did however return to the field after the break and battled through another half an hour before being substituted.

Regardless of the injury, Valencia reaped the rewards of his hard work and was named man of the match, with the captain giving his team the perfect start to their World Cup campaign.

Ecuador’s first half blitz allowed them to be hardly forced out of first gear in a comfortable second half, and still spurned multiple opportunities of their own to stretch the lead against Qatar.

The host nation had no answers, having no shots on target for the whole game.

An almost solo opportunity to get one back came just before half time, as Almoez Ali got on the end of a cross but managed to head it wide from the centre of the six-yard box.

An official crowd of 67,372 was announced by FIFA, but was a fraction of that at full-time after Ecuador’s hold on the game saw many of the home fans head out of the stadium.

Ecuador will play the Netherlands in their next match on Saturday morning, while Qatar will hope to put on a better performance for their fans in the game prior against Senegal.

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