Ecuador defeated Qatar, which participated for the first time in the World Cup, with two goals to none on Sunday, with two goals scored by veteran striker Ener Valencia, in the first loss in the opening match of a host country in the history of the tournament.
Valencia scored an early penalty and added a fine header in the 31st minute to give the South Americans a solid first-half lead as the Qataris looked overwhelmed by the importance of the occasion.
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It might have been worse for the hosts in front of a crowd of 67,372 at Al Bayt Stadium had Valencia, 33, not had a third-minute header ruled out for marginal offside after goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb fumbled the ball over. .
And it was Al Sheib who later missed Valencia when he passed the goal and then jumped the wrong way as the Ecuadorean calmly took the resulting penalty kick in the 16th minute.
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For the second time, Valencia were unmarked but showed great technique, bending in and nearly volleying Angelo Preciado’s cross from behind him to go past Al Sheeb again.
That goal killed the game as a game, and the second half was played at a slow pace, with many Qatar fans leaving before the end as Ecuador fans chanted “Olé!”
Despite an inordinately long time bonding and training together, including summer camps in Europe, Qatar seemed pretty much toothless. Al Moez Ali had his best chance at the end of the first half with a header wide but was then ruled offside.
Muhammad Muntari also fired in the last minutes.
Both teams now have to face Senegal and the Netherlands in the group stage, with Qatar’s chances of picking up points or qualifying looking slim in this performance.
Ecuador dreams of surpassing its previous best performance in the World Cup, when it reached the Round of 16 in 2006.