Ecuador makes history with World Cup opening match win over Qatari hosts

By Jose Antonio Pascual

Al Khor, Qatar, Nov 20 (EFE).- Ecuador took the pitch against host team Qatar in the opening match of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday with the clear intention of making history. And they didn’t squander their opportunity.

In fact, the team will go down in the sports annals as the first to win an opening World Cup match against the host country.

No local team has ever lost its debut match at a World Cup it hosted, although host South Africa battled to a 1-1 tie against Mexico in 2010.

The South American country’s top player and team captain, Enner Valencia, was the star of the match. In La Tri’s most recent World Cup outing in Brazil in 2014, he had scored all of the team’s three goals, and on Sunday he notched both tallies for Gustavo Alfaro’s squad in their 2-0 drubbing of the locals.

Both goals came in the first half. In minute 3, Valencia had first found the twine only to have the goal ruled out after VAR, but that did nothing to quash his spirits or those of the squad as they maintained their intensity against a Qatari team that just couldn’t seem to get its motor running.

Valencia is not only Ecuador’s top goal scorer in history, but also is now its top World Cup competition scorer, having surpassed Agustin Delgado, with whom he had been tied at three apiece up to now.

Ecuador simply outmatched the Qatari squad, with the Fenerbahce striker first hitting pay dirt in the 16th minute on a penalty kick and then knocking in a fabulous header in minute 31 for the 2-0 even though he hadn’t been able to tee himself up properly.

Meanwhile, Felix Sanchez, the Qataris’ coach, was quite clearly frustrated by his team’s poor showing. They were plagued with poor passing throughout the contest and never threatened the Ecuadorian net. Given the lack of performance, it would seem to be a difficult proposition for the host team to make it through the Group A matches and into the Round of 16.

Although the scoring action all came in the first half, after the break Valencia continued to press until he simply sat on the grass and said he couldn’t go on any longer, whereupon he was substituted and left the pitch to the cheers from the several thousand Ecuadorian fans in the stands, and no doubt from his countrymen back home.

The fans, who before the Inaugural Ceremony of the tourney had chanted “Yes, we can!” changed that after the win to “Yes, we did!” as they celebrated in the stands of Al Bayt Stadium.

EFE jap/bp

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