THE FIFA WORLD CUP 2022 got off to an eventful start with Ecuador beating hosts Qatar 2-0 in the opening game.
The group A fixture, which pitted two teams that were dead even in their head-to-head record, the game was expected to be fairly competitive and to a large extent it was. But Ecuador captain Enner Valencia, whom the Qatari defence had clearly marked as the danger man from the get go, put on an offensive blitz early on that made the difference.
Within 3 minutes, Valencia had found the net, but the goal was called due to offside after a VAR review. Undeterred, the former West Ham and Everton striker kept making inroads in the final third, drawing all sorts of blocks and tackles from his opponents. And soon, the Qatar keeper committed a foul on him that earned Ecuador a penalty, which Valencia himself calmly converted to give his team the lead.
Not long afterwards, Valencia found the net for the second time, creating a comfotable cushion for Ecuador to defend. Multiple yellow cards were dished out throughout the game for fouls on Valencia and at one point before half-time he had to step out to receive treatment for injuries.
In the second half, Qatar looked better defensively and even created chances of their own. But their performance in the final third was not up to the mark. Perhaps under pressure in front of the home crowd, the host nation's players were unable to create sustained pressure on Ecuador's defence who were happy to sit back on their two goal lead to push through with a comfortable win.
The 2-0 victory puts Ecuador in a somewhat comfortable position in the points table before they take on group favourites Netherlands on Friday. Qatar, too, will be back on the pitch on Friday, taking on Senegal who are also a strong cadidate for progressing to the knockout stages from Group A.