Ecuador’s all-time top scorer, nicknamed ‘Superman’ at home, netted an early penalty and added a well-taken 31st-minute header to give the South Americans a first-half lead as the Qataris seemed overwhelmed by the enormity of the occasion. .
How it happened
It could have been even worse for the hosts in front of a crowd of 67,372 at the tent-shaped Al Bayt Stadium had not Valencia, 33, had a third-minute header disallowed for a marginal offside after the goalkeeper Saad Alsheeb beat the ball.
⏱ Ecuador take the points in our first match at #Qatar2022! @adidasfootball | #Fifa World Cup
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) 1668967184000
It was Alsheeb who then stumbled Valencia while on goal, then dove the wrong way as the Ecuadorian coolly sent the resulting penalty in the 16th minute.
For their second, Valencia were unmarked but still showed great technique to duck and take Angelo Preciado’s cross almost from behind to overtake Alsheeb again.
That goal killed the Group A match as a contest and the second half was played at a slow pace, with many Qataris leaving before the end as the Ecuadorian fans chanted “Ole!”
Despite a long period of yearning to bond and train together, including summer camps in Europe, Qatar looked largely toothless. Almoez Ali had his best chance late in the first half, heading wide but was later ruled offside.
Mohammed Muntari also fired over in the closing minutes.
The two teams now have to face Senegal and the Netherlands in the group stage, with Qatar’s chances of scoring points or qualifying looking slim on this performance.
Ecuador dream of surpassing their best World Cup performance when they reached the last 16 in 2006.