The 2022 World Cup in Qatar opened with a physical and agricultural but not uneventful game between the hosts and Ecuador. A nervy display from Qatar, especially before the break, saw Ecuador dominate proceedings with Enner Valencia’s movement and finishing proving too much for the Qataris. Valencia had a goal questionably ruled out for offside via VAR early on before he stroked home a penalty. Valencia’s flashing header then made it 2-0 before half time which allowed Ecuador, the far stronger side throughout, to comfortably see out a non-event of a second period.
QATAR – 0
Saad Al Sheeb, 2 – Got away with a couple of moments of poor indecisiveness, most notably having flapped at the ball twice resulting in an early disallowed goal, before bringing down Valencia for the penalty. In a team of overawed players, few fared worse than him.
Pedro Miguel, 4
Bassam Al Rawi, 3
Boualem Khoukhi, 3
Abdelkarim Hassan, 3 – An individual display typical of his team’s nervy and overawed performance, especially before half time, and repeatedly lost possession via some wayward passing and often tackled clumsily. Settled after the break but was put under little pressure by Ecuador from then on who were happy to protect their lead.
Homam Ahmed, 4
Karim Boudiaf, 3
Hassan Al-Haydos, 3
Abdulaziz Hatem, 4
Almoez Ali, 2 – Billed as Qatar’s main goal threat but was withdrawn after 70 minutes having touched the ball just 14 times and sliced a free close range header, the hosts’ only chance, wide just before half time.
Akram Afif, 4 – The Qatari’s star player was completely isolated through the first half and, despite some relatively neat touches, he provided little threat and had to drop deep to pick up possession, sometimes appearing between the centre-backs.
Others: Mohammed Waad Al Albayati 5, Mohammed Muntari 5.
ECUADOR – 2 (Valencia 16, 32)
Hernán Galíndez, 5
Ángelo Preciado, 6
Piero Hincapié, 6 – Assured defensively throughout, although he was put under little pressure by a weak Qatar attack, but produced some neat and precise passing and only once looked in trouble having been caught under a dipping long ball which Muntari raced on to to fire just over.
Félix Torres, 5
Pervis Estupiñán, 6 – A typical all-action display from the Brighton left-back, especially before half time as a dynamic presence on the flank as he repeatedly unsettled his direct opponents but might have created a few more openings.
Gonzalo Plata, 5
Sebas Méndez, 7
Moisés Caicedo, 7 – Dominated midfield alongside the equally excellent Méndez via his physicality and ruthless ability to win back possession, before often using the ball intelligently. The tenacity of both central midfielders in Ecuador’s flat 4-4-2 instigated moves that led to the first and second goals.
Romario Ibarra, 5
Michael Estrada, 6
Enner Valencia, 8 – Had a flourish of quality and game intelligence that Qatar couldn’t match, and was very unfortunate to have a goal disallowed before he stroked home the penalty for the opener and netted a flashing header, the game’s best moment, that put the game beyond the hosts before half time.
Others: Sarmiento 5, Cifuentes 5.
World Cup 2022 Group A, 20/11/22
Adam White | GWFN