Despite being the Asian champion, Qatar failed to get its first win in the World Cup on Sunday. Ecuador defeated the hosts 2-0 in Al Bayt Stadium, the first time Qatar has ever suffered a defeat in a World Cup game. The match was also the first in which a host country has lost its opening game since 1934.
Ecuador had not conceded in six matches before this match. It was a resurgent team, with the re-emergence of Enner Valencia, the winger who scored three goals in the 2014 World Cup. He scored two goals in the first half, including a penalty, and then doubled the score after a disallowed header from Qatar. In the 33rd minute, the Ecuadorian forward headed in a cross from Angelo Preciado. The home side had a couple of chances to score but none of them were on target.
Ecuador played the game with discipline and kept Qatar at bay throughout the first half. But it wasn’t until a late goal from Mohammed Muntari that the home side really threatened to score. The hosts were ragged at the back, allowing Ecuador to keep the ball in their own half and often making passes that were wildly astray. Qatar managed five shots throughout the game, but none were on target.
Qatar looked nervous at the opening ceremony, and it appeared that their players were not ready to face the competition. They had to go to an unprecedented international training camp to get prepared for the World Cup. But the team’s nerves must have played a big role in its dismal performance.
In the first half, Ecuador dominated possession and created chances, with Ecuador’s Enner Valencia scoring the first goal after a penalty. Qatar’s Saad Al Sheeb was booked for a challenge on Valencia. However, VAR determined that the player was not a sub. Then, the Ecuadorian captain scored a second goal after a penalty was awarded. It was a strong header that went inside the near post. In the second half, Ecuador’s Ener Valencia scored two more goals, including a penalty, and the home side did a little better in the second period.
While there were some home supporters, the stadium wasn’t full. Some fans had to leave early, and others stayed through the game’s end. This was a sign of the importance of the game, but also of cultural differences. Some elderly people couldn’t go to the match and toddlers weren’t allowed to attend.
Qatar is a tiny Arab country in the Persian Gulf, with the highest GDP per capita in the world. It also has the world’s largest natural gas fields. But the country has also been the target of scrutiny for its treatment of foreign workers. The migrant workforce is mostly from Bangladesh and India. There have been allegations that thousands of workers have been abused and killed in recent years. Qatari officials have denied the claims. But the World Cup may be the perfect time to shed light on the problem.