- Shimon Hafez
- BBC Sport – Qatar
Qatar lost at the opening of the World Cup, which it hosted on its soil, against Ecuador with two goals without a response, in a “disastrous” match for the Qatari team, which did not hit a single ball on the opposing goal in the match hosted by Al-Bayt Stadium, on Sunday evening.
Qatar became the first country to host the World Cup and lose the opening match, despite Qatar’s Spanish coach Felix Sanchez setting up a six-month training camp for the players to prepare for the tournament and train on tactics on the field, but all this did not happen because of the nervous and disjointed performance, so the team’s first loss was with two goals in First group matches.
There were high hopes in Qatar to win the opening match in front of thousands of fans, especially since the next two matches are extremely difficult against Senegal, the last African Nations Cup holders, and the Netherlands, which reached the World Cup final three times before, so Ecuador was the easiest competitor on paper.
The opening match witnessed the cancellation of an early goal by Enner Valencia, due to offside by the video assistant referee (the mouse), but the same player returned to score again shortly after a penalty kick.
The referee awarded the penalty kick in the 16th minute, after a random intervention by the Qatari goalkeeper Saad Al-Sheeb.
The Qatari team’s attempts to cohesion and return to the match did not succeed, and the second goal came in the 31st minute, from a header to Valencia as well, to announce the second goal and silence prevailed in the stands of the Qatari fans who also attended the opening ceremony on the same stadium.
Many Qatari fans left the stadium between the two halves of the match, due to the team’s shaky and disorganized performance in the first half, leaving half the stadium empty for most of the second half.
And the bad feeling among the fans was reinforced by the continued control of Ecuador in the second half, and powerful shots on the goal, which were saved by the Qatari goalkeeper.
Coach Sanchez decided to replace the team’s stars, Moez Ali and captain Hassan Al-Haydos, 20 minutes before the end of the match, especially since the team did not hit a single ball on goal throughout the match.
Qatar’s dream turns into a nightmare
The World Cup kicked off on Sunday, 12 years after Qatar was chosen to host it in 2010, after long periods of speculation and expectations about not holding the tournament there.
There was plenty of real excitement at the opening ceremony, but Qatar’s dream turned into a nightmare after they became the first World Cup host nation to lose their opening match.
The Asian champions, the tournament they won again in 2019, did not present anything in the match and did not threaten the attacking third of the Ecuadorian team, nor did they hit a single ball on goalkeeper Hernan Galendez, who did not appear in the match.
South Africa was the only host country in the history of the World Cup to advance to the second round and was eliminated from the group stage in the 2010 tournament, and Qatar is a strong candidate to be the second host country to also exit from the first round.
And Ecuador achieved a positive result and appeared at an excellent level and continued to perform well and remain unbeaten in 16 matches and kept a clean sheet in the last seven matches.
It was clear they were the better team, had possession and found the net very early after 160 seconds, but Valencia’s close-range header was ruled out for offside by the VAR.
There was confusion as to why the goal was not given, but there was Felix Torres in an offside position.
The Ecuadorian players managed to fan out all over the field, while the Qatari team was confused, especially the goalkeeper who took the penalty kick.
Qatar’s players struggled to reach the opponent’s goal, even star player Ali, who scored nine goals in winning the Asian Cup, did not come to the match and only played a header that was wide of the goal, as well as player Pedro Miguel.
With many fans leaving to go home, Akram Afif and substitute Mohamed Muntari failed to turn things around in a disappointing opening night for Qatar.