WHO: Qatar v Ecuador, Group A
That: Al Bayt Square
When: Sunday, November 20, 7pm (16:00 GMT)
The role of FIFA: Qatar (50), Ecuador (44)
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 kicks off on Sunday with a clash between hosts Ecuador.
The opening match and exhibition tournament, the first to be held in the Middle East, will be held at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, north of Qatar’s capital, Doha.
The game has been brought up by one day to keep the tradition of the country that has been hosting the tournament.
Ranked 113th in the world, Qatar’s national team – known as the Maroons – have climbed to 50th in the FIFA rankings thanks to a string of impressive performances in recent years, including a stunning first Asian Cup win in 2019.
The team also made the semi-final at the Gold Cup of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football last year as the host nation.
This will be Qatar’s first appearance at the World Cup.
Led by Spanish coach Felix Sanchez, the Maroons are hoping to reach the next round from a group that also includes European giants Netherlands and African champions Senegal.
“It’s three games, and we know the level of our opponent,” Sanchez told reporters on Saturday. “Because of their history, their skills, their work where they play, they are ahead of us.
“On paper, they should get three points. Maybe they count on three points already. But we are here to show that we can be a competitive team. We will bring our ‘Game’ and try to get a good result that will bring a lot of joy.”
The team returned to Doha seven days before kick-off, coming from a major training camp in Marbella, Spain.
“We want to show the results of all our hard work. God willing, we will do better than any game before,” Qatar captain Hassan Al Haydos told a press conference before the match.
Player to watch is left-arm spinner Akram Afif. The 25-year-old, who plays for Qatari club Al Sadd, was named the 2019 Asian Footballer of the Year after his one goal and 10 assists led Qatar to the continental title.
Despite the home advantage, Qatar will have no trouble defeating Ecuador.
With an average age of 25, the team called La Tri was the youngest team to reach South America and one of the youngest in the tournament.
Ecuador, ranked 44th, had an impressive campaign, finishing fourth behind Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and losing just once at home. They defeated Colombia 6-1, beat Uruguay, took four points against Chile and matched the heavyweights of football in Brazil and Argentina.
The team’s star player is Moises Caicedo who plays for Brighton and Hove Albion, an English Premier League team. The 21-year-old box-to-box midfielder provides strength and solid defense to a young team.
If the Maroons are going to pick up any points against La Tri, they will need to prevent their success from going in.
Also keep an eye on Gonzalo Plata, the exciting winger who plays for Real Valladolid in Spain.
Led by Argentina’s Gustavo Alfaro, who often favors a 4-4-2 formation, La Tri will be looking to achieve their best ever World Cup, reaching the round of 16 in 2006.