A day of celebration and promise that quickly turned sour for Qatar in the opening match of the 2022 World Cup.
Ecuador scored early to put this one out of reach, earning a 2-0 win over the host nation on Sunday.
Enner Valencia scored both goals for Ecuador, while goalkeeper Hernán Galíndez posted a clean sheet. Qatar did not manage a single shot on goal in their five attempts.
The game started with immediate controversy, when Valencia appeared to score in the third minute from a header. After VAR review, an offside decision was given and the goal was disallowed.
Moments later, Valencia had another chance. Qatar keeper Saad al-Sheeb fouled Valencia as the striker attacked the net, tripping Valencia with his arm as he went for the ball.
This led to a penalty, which Valencia calmly sent into the back of the net in the 16th minute for the first goal of the tournament.
Ecuador continued to dominate time in the battle for possession midway through the first half. He had several chances to widen the gap before finally doing so in the 31st minute.
Defender Ángelo Preciado fired a right-footed cross into the box, where Valencia was left free and headed in their second goal.
Qatar’s biggest scoring chance came in the dying seconds of first-half stoppage time. Almoez Ali had the chance to head in but missed wide before the whistle sounded to end the half.
The second half was played at a much slower pace, with neither team generating momentum for scoring chances in the first 15 minutes.
Qatar had the first chance in the 62nd minute, but Pedro Miguel missed the wide left with a header to keep the deficit at 2-0.
The game continued its staggered game with several injury stoppages, yellow cards and substitutions in the second half. There were six yellow cards in the game – four for Qatar, two for Ecuador.
The host nation had one last chance to score in the 86th minute. Mohammed Muntari got behind the defense and shot with his right foot from 25 yards out, but the ball landed on the roof of the net.
Qatar now face a tough climb out of Group A, which also includes the Netherlands and Senegal. Winning their first game is often essential at the World Cup: 84% of teams that win their first game advance to the knockout stage, while only 11% of teams that lose their first game advance.
Ecuador and Qatar will only return to the pitch on Friday for their second match of the group stage. Ecuador takes on the Netherlands at 11 a.m. ET after Qatar takes on Senegal at 8 a.m. ET.