Valencia scores 2, Ecuador rolls through host Qatar in 2022 World Cup opener

Enner Valencia Ecuador Qatar World Cup
Ecuador’s Enner Valencia celebrates scoring his side’s second goal against Qatar during a World Cup group A soccer match at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor , Qatar, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Enner Valencia recorded a brace as Ecuador defeated hosts Qatar 2-0 in the first match of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday at Al Bayt Stadium in Al-Khor.

The Ecuadorian striker, who plays his club soccer for Fenerbahce in Turkey, should have had a first-half hat trick as it appeared to score the opener three minutes in, but VAR semi-controversially deemed that the play was offside.

Officiating came back to help Ecuador when Valencia was taken down in the box by Qatar netminder Saad Al Sheeb — who had a disastrous first half after displaying a ball that led to the disallowed goal — for a penalty.

Valencia coolly slotted the opportunity in the 16th minute to put Ecuador in front for good. 

Fifteen minutes later, he got his second with a brilliant header at the left post off a dangerous cross from Ángelo Preciado past a diving Al Sheeb, who didn’t have much of a chance. 

The result was a worst-case scenario for Qatar, which withheld its players from competing for their club teams to prepare for the World Cup in hopes of building chemistry for the largest stage they’ve ever experienced.

Instead, Qatar’s first-ever match at the World Cup — they automatically qualified for being named host nation — showed that the lights were too bright. 

Out of nothing, they nearly nabbed an unlikely goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time toward the end of the first half when top scorer Almoez Ali had a free header in front of the Ecuador goal. However, he shanked his header horribly wide.

A less-than-impressive debut marked the first time in the near-century of the World Cup that a host nation lost its opening match of the competition. 

With the Netherlands and Senegal looming, Qatar also looks likely to become just the second host nation — joining South Africa in 2010 — to not make it out of the group stage. 

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