2022 FIFA World Cup Opening Match Takeaways

By Jeff Stinger

The big event is now underway. Ecuador took on hosts Qatar and emerged victorious with two goals and a clean sheet. With the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicking off, let’s look at the VAR drama, political issues, and empty seats that come with Sunday’s opening match.

2022 FIFA World Cup Opening Game Highlights

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Ecuador adapted to the situation

Head coach Gustavo Alfaro did well to cope with Qatar’s tactics. They went through a six-game spell where they only scored two goals leading up to this match, but did better and scored two goals playing a 4-3-3 formation, which failed to put pressure on their opponents. Ecuador team captain and +2,500 World Cup top goalscorer Enner Valencia thrives in a 4-4-2, two-striker formation. He’s better with another striker working alongside him, and it proved effective last night. The 33-year-old scored the first two goals of the game. He also increased the benchmark of Ecuador’s top goalscorer title to 37.

Hosts fail to stand their ground

The Qatari struggled almost the entire time. Ecuador overwhelmed them from the first whistle of the match. Every set piece of their opponent posed a threat, and the South Americans were just the better team. Qatar had trouble winning balls. Nevertheless, we witnessed the hosts improve their game in the second half. They matched The Tricolors physically and showcased better passing. However, Enner Valencia and the +2,800 World Cup finalists were too much to contain.

A tough road ahead for World Cup debutants

Host nations usually pull off decent results at World Cups. This meant high expectations ahead of Qatar’s debut against Ecuador. The Maroons came into the competition ranked 50th in the world, but stayed unbeaten in their last six games before a draw at home to Chile last September. But the true test surfaces right now and Ecuador quickly showed the hosts a different caliber of soccer.

Several chances approached Qatar in the second half, but their opponents had solid breaks to extend their lead. Ultimately, Qatar is the first nation to lose their opening game at a World Cup and is presented with another challenge as they take on Senegal next as +418 underdogs.

Another huge year for VAR

Less than three minutes into the game at the Al-Bayt Stadium when Ecuador thought they scored the first goal of the tournament. However, VAR was there to spoil the party. Initially, it was vague why Enner Valencia’s strike was ruled out, but the replay detailed a marginal offside in the play. Michael Estrada’s lower leg was in an offside position after the ball had come off Felix Torres. It was a technicality that went in favor of the hosts, but not everyone was delighted to see the call.

Political issues

Many people have voiced their concerns regarding the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Reports of sports washing and the host country’s poor human rights records and questionable illiberal and authoritarian stand on LGBT issues have surfaced leading up to the event. Furthermore, Gareth Southgate confirmed on Sunday that England players and -303 favorites to win Group B would take a knee ahead of their opening match with Iran in light of the issues. That said, whatever happens at this World Cup, expect political issues coming with the contest.

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