On Sunday, Ecuador defeated World Cup debutants Qatar 2-0 thanks to two goals from veteran striker Enner Valencia. This was the first time in the history of the event that the host country lost the first game of the competition.
The all-time leading scorer for Ecuador, who is known as “Superman” in his home country, converted an early penalty kick and then added a well-taken header in the 31st minute to give the South Americans a commanding lead in the first half. The Qataris appeared to be overcome by the magnitude of the occasion.
It could have been even worse for the home team Ain front of a crowd of 67,372 people at the tent-shaped Al Bayt stadium had Valencia, 33, not had a header in the third minute disallowed for a marginal offside after goalkeeper Saad Alsheeb flapped at the ball. Valencia’s header was disallowed for a marginal offside after Saad Alsheeb had flapped at the ball.
Alsheeb was the one who ended up tripping Valencia just as he was about to score, and then Alsheeb dove the wrong way as Valencia calmly put away the penalty kick that resulted from the infraction in the 16th minute.
For his second goal, Valencia was completely unmarked, but he still managed to show off his excellent skill by bending over and heading Angelo Preciado’s cross past Alsheeb even though it was virtually coming from behind him.
The game in Group A was effectively over after the goal, and the second half was played at a snail’s pace as a result.
Qatar seemed to lack a significant amount of bite despite having an enviably lengthy period to bond and practise together, including attending summer camps in Europe. At the conclusion of the first half, Almoez Ali had their greatest opportunity, but his header went wide and he was subsequently called offside.
In the last minutes of the match, Mohammed Muntari likewise shot wide.
Both teams will now compete against Senegal and the Netherlands in the group round. Given their performance so far, Qatar’s prospects of advancing out of the group stage with any points or qualifying seem to be poor.
The Ecuadorian national team hopes to improve upon their previous best performance at the World Cup, which came in 2006 when they advanced to the round of 16.