The 2022 FIFA World Cup is ready to kick off as hosts Qatar match up against Group A opponents Ecuador. Ecuador reached the World Cup by frustrating South American opponents with stingy defense, conceding just 19 goals in CONMEBOL qualifying, the joint-lowest of any team not named Brazil or Argentina who ran away with the results.

Qatar is the smallest country to ever host the FIFA World Cup but easily the most controversial; accusations of bribery and corruption surfaced soon after FIFA awarded them hosting rights in 2010, and since then they’ve faced intense pressure over several issues including their treatment of migrant workers and environmental concerns.

With the country’s human rights record and anti-homosexuality stance also making headlines, ex-FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitted earlier this month that awarding them the tournament was “a mistake”. Whatever the rights or wrongs, for the first time nations must play a World Cup in November and December, making this unfamiliar territory for everyone and uncomfortable for many.

Under their coach of five years Félix Sánchez, the Qataris have opted for continuity and prepared for their World Cup debut by playing numerous friendlies this year, with their current six-match unbeaten run (W5, D1 – includes unofficial friendlies) starting with a creditable 2-2 draw against Chile. They’ve proved themselves in tournament football too by finishing third in last year’s Arab Cup as hosts while they won the last edition of the Asian Cup in 2019.

That experience, as well as Copa Ámerica and Gold Cup appearances, should help them against an Ecuador side making their fourth appearance at a World Cup finals and who finished fourth in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualification standings (W7, D5, L6). They’ve been steady in their subsequent games too (W2, D4) but with all four of those draws ending goalless, Argentine coach Gustavo Alfaro will need to find the key to unlocking their attacking potential if they’re to become the first side to beat the host nation in a World Cup opener.

Another dull stalemate would be unusual as not since 1978 has the World Cup begun with a goalless draw and the era of hosts playing the first game (2006 onwards) has usually provided plenty of entertainment. Qatar will now seek to emulate Germany (W 4-2 v Costa Rica in 2006), Brazil (W 3-1 v Croatia in 2014) and Russia (W 5-0 v Saudi Arabia in 2018), who all pleased their fans while getting the tournament off to a flier.


Date: 20/11/2022
Time: 19:00
Venue: Al Bayt Stadium (Al Khor)
Pick for this match:
“2” – @ 2.50( BETWAY )

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