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Enner Valencia recorded a brace as Ecuador defeated hosts Qatar 2-0 in the first match of the 2022 World Cup on Sunday at Al Bayt Stadium in Al-Khor.
The Ecuadorian striker, who plays his club soccer for Fenerbahce in Turkey, should have had a first-half hat trick as it appeared to score the opener three minutes in, but VAR semi-controversially deemed that the play was offside.
Officiating came back to help Ecuador when Valencia was taken down in the box by Qatar netminder Saad Al Sheeb — who had a disastrous first half after displaying a ball that led to the disallowed goal — for a penalty.
Valencia coolly slotted the opportunity in the 16th minute to put Ecuador in front for good.
Fifteen minutes later, he got his second with a brilliant header at the left post off a dangerous cross from Ángelo Preciado past a diving Al Sheeb, who didn’t have much of a chance.
The result was a worst-case scenario for Qatar, which withheld its players from competing for their club teams to prepare for the World Cup in hopes of building chemistry for the largest stage they’ve ever experienced.
Instead, Qatar’s first-ever match at the World Cup — they automatically qualified for being named host nation — showed that the lights were too bright.
Out of nothing, they nearly nabbed an unlikely goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time toward the end of the first half when top scorer Almoez Ali had a free header in front of the Ecuador goal. However, he shanked his header horribly wide.