Enner Valencia’s brace gave Ecuador a comfortable 2-0 win over hosts Qatar in the opening game of the 2022 World Cup.
The hosts rarely threatened to score and didn’t have a shot on target in the entire 90 minutes as the South Americans put on dominant display at the Al Bayt stadium.
Here are the three things we learned.
Ecuador stronger than predicted:
Ecuador finished fourth in the South American qualifiers for the World Cup and have a youthful exuberance in their squad to make a deep run in the tournament.
The El Tri, playing their fourth World Cup, their first one being in 2022, made a terrific start when Enner Valencia’s header appeared to have given them the lead.
However, semi-automated offside technology helped VAR to chalk off the goal with an offside call in the buildup.
Valencia however coolly slotted home from the penalty spot after having bring brought down by opposition goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb, the latter who had a nightmarish start.
The 33-year-old former West Ham striker then doubled the lead in the 31st minute with a memorable header from Ayrton Preciado’s cross from the right wing.
The South American outfit could have scored more but were guilt of spurning chances they created against the hosts.
Ecuador have now kept a clean sheet in each of their last seven games and will be no pushovers in remaining matches.
If Gustavo Alfaro’s men can get something against Netherlands in their next game, they will back themselves against Senegal to qualify for the knockout stages.
Hosts look disjointed
Qatar looked like a very disorganized side, hardly able to string passes amongst themselves and keep possession.
Almoez Ali spurned a brilliant chance to pull one back just on the stroke of half time but headed wide with the Ecuadorian goal at his mercy.
The hosts didn’t have a shot on goal in the entire game which would surely worry head coach Felix Sanchez, whose side were outclassed in every blade of grass throughout the ninety minutes.
Mohammed Muntari almost pulled off a brilliant goal for the hosts, latching on a long pass from the inside right channel but his thundering effort crashed against the roof of the net.
The hosts’ defensive line looked very shaky whenever Ecuador had possession and should Sanchez not address these concerns soon, the signs could be ominous against Netherlands and Senegal.
Ecuador will take on Netherlands in what promises to be a crucial encounter for either side. Louis Van Gaal has claimed that the Oranje are good enough to win the tournament and the current crop is stronger than the 2014 squad that reached the semi final in Brazil.
Ecuador, however, will push the Dutch to the edge and Alfrao will be buoyed with what he saw of his side against Qatar.
For the hosts, though, they face tournament dark horses Senegal in a must win game, else they face elimination.
Photo credit: IMAGO / Xinhua
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