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Two teams both way down the FIFA rankings, but both with plenty of talent in their ranks and attacking purpose. The team that can get off to a winning start tonight might just have what it takes to be one of the surprise packages of the tournament. Either way, we're in for a footballing treat tonight, and the action starts in just a few moments.
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Ecuador's key players tonight include Moses Caicedo, the box-to-box midfielder who is the heart of his side. Enner Valencia is Ecuador's leading goal-scorer with 35 goals in 74 matches… and when he scores it is often spectacular! Left-footed payment Ángel Mena is another dangerman, but he is starting on the bench tonight. Finally, Pervis Estupiñán is a powerful left-back who enjoys foraging down the left flank… from where he picks up a lot of assists.
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Key players to watch out for in the Qatar lineup are their striking duo of Almoez Ali and Akram Afif; much of Qatar's success in this tournament will hang on how well they perform. Saad Al Sheeb has been in great form between the poles, with a string of clean sheets behind him, while defensive midfielder Karim Boudiaf is their rock at the back.
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The referee for tonight's historic encounter is Daniele Orsato, and he will be assisted by Ciro Carbone and Alessando Giallatini. Our fourth official is Szabolcs Kovacs.
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Ecuador: 1 H. Galíndez, 7 P. Estupiñán, 2 F. Torres, 17 Angelo Preciado, 3 P. Hincapié, 10 R. Ibarra, 20 J. Méndez, 19 G. Plata, 23 M. Caicedo, 13 E. Valencia, 11 M. Estrada. Replacements: 9 Ayrton Preciado, 25 J. Porozo, 24 D. Reasco, 4 R. Arboleda, 6 W. Pacho, 5 J. Cifuentes, 14 X. Arreaga, 12 M. Ramírez, 18 D. Palacios, 15 Á. Mena, 21 A. Franco, 8 C. Gruezo, 22 A. Domínguez, 26 K. Rodríguez, 16 J. Sarmiento.
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Qatar: 1 Saad Al Sheeb, 16 Boualem Khoukhi, 3 Abdelkarim Hassan, 2 Pedro Miguel, 15 Bassam Al Rawi, 14 Homam Ahmed, 6 Abdulaziz Hatem, 12 Karim Boudiaf, 10 Hassan Al Haydos, 19 Almoez Ali, 11 Akram Afif. Replacements: 9 Mohammed Muntari, 21 Yousef Hassan, 4 Mohammed Waad, 20 Salem Al Hajri, 17 Ismaeel Mohammad, 22 Meshaal Barsham, 8 Ali Asad, 23 Assim Madibo, 24 Naif Al Hadhrami, 25 Jassem Gaber, 5 Tarek Salman, 13 Musaab Khidir, 7 Ahmed Alaa, 18 Khalid Muneer, 26 Mostafa Meshaal.
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The two sides have only met once before, in 2018, when Qatar ran out 4-3 winners. Qatar were 3-0 up in the 61st minute, before Ecuador pulled a goal back on 66 minutes. Qatar then scored a fourth two minutes later to which Ecuador replied with their second from top-scorer Valencia to make it 4-2. Cevallos netted on 89 minutes to make it 4-3 as the match entered injury time, but Qatar held out for a thrilling victory.
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The two sides have only met once before, in 2018, when Qatar ran out 4-3 winners. Qatar were 3-0 up in the 61st minute, before Ecuador pulled a goal back on 66 minutes. Qatar then scored a fourth two minutes later to which Ecuador replied with their second from top-scorer Valencia to make it 4-2. Cevallos netted on 89 minutes to make it 4-3 as the match entered injury time, but Qatar held out for a thrilling victory.
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One of Ecuador's strengths is their solid defence and excellent first-choice goalkeeper. They are undefeated in their last five matches, during which they have not conceded a single goal. However, they have only scored one goal themselves during this spell, which was a 1-0 win over Cabo Verde.
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What Qatar lack in experience they make up for with form. They have had an excellent build-up to the World Cup with a superb string of results over the last year. They are undefeated in their last five matches and have won their last four matches while only conceding a single goal.
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Ecuador declined an invite to the first World Cup held in Uruguay in 1930… and then had to wait until 2002 to qualify. They have played in three World Cups, with their best result coming in 2006, when they made it through to the Round of 16.
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Qatar are no stranger to international competition, having appeared in the Asian Cup on 10 occasions, winning it in 2019.
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Qatar are ranked 50h in the world by FIFA, while Ecuador's current ranking is 44, which put both sides under pressure against the two other teams in Group A: Senegal are ranked 18th, while the Netherlands seem to be an imposing opponent as they are ranked 8th. Both sides will be eyeing a win tonight to give them a fighting chance of making it through to Round 16… although in a World Cup, anything can happen.
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The hosts Qatar and playing Ecuador at the dramatic Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, ‎Qatar, but the retractable roof won't be needed for keeping any rain out. Right now the temperature is around 23ºC, there's north-west breeze of 28km/h… and there's absolutely no sign of rain.
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And a very good evening to our worldwide audience as we prepare for the incredible spectacle of FIFA's World Cup! This is the 22nd FIFA World Cup and Qatar are not only the hosts, but they are also making their World Cup debut, so it's going to be an evening of historic firsts and, let's hope, spectacular football!
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Beunos Dias Qatar and Ecuador.
1'
Caicedo down in pain after colliding with a Qatar midfielder but they win free kick inside the Qatar half.
1'
Long ball into the Ecuador box right from the start but Ecuador clear the ball quickly and effectively. Clever move by the hosts to try catch Ecuador napping.
1'
Kick-off! That's it, the four-year wait is over, the 22nd FIFA World Cup is underway… and Qatar are now officially a World Cup team!
2'
DRAMA! Valencia claims the record for most goals for his country by heading home the first of the night. The free-kick came into the box, Ecuador gained possession and crossed it into the six-yard box when Valencia headed home clinically. BUT HOLD ON VAR has called it offside! Heartbreak for Ecuador who celebrated with great gusto… but a great break for the hosts, with the slate wiped clean… and we're back to 0-0.
6'
Qatar with a quick break into the Ecuador box but the keeper cleans it up.
8'
Ecuador now pressing in the Qatar box, working the ball across field… a long ball goes into the box and Al Sheeb is up to punch it clear, but not overly confident
9'
Ecuador with a free kick from the left flank but the Qatar defence clears the danger.
11'
Ecuador with a corner from the right corner flag…
12'
… the kick curls in low and flat to the front post but it's headed powerfully clear by the Qatar defence.
14'
DRAMA! IT'S ALL HAPPENING!
15'
GOAL, ECUADOR, VALENCIA! 0-1; Valencia slots it home super cool into the right corner, as Al-Sheeb dives to his right. Valencia now has the record for the most goals for Ecuador in World Cup finals! What a champion. What a start to the World Cup.
15'
PENALTY, ECUADOR! Valencia is bought down by Al Sheeb after a superb break into the box.
16'
YELLOW CARD, QATAR, AL SHEEB. The keeper goes into the book for having brought Valencia down to concede the penalty.
18'
INCREDIBLE! Estupiñán does well to get his cross in from right on the byline, Estrada rising to get his head to it might in front of goal but he can't keep it down and it loops up benignly… but Estrada clashes with Al Sheeb and Qatar get a free-kick. Relief for the Qatar squad who seem somewhat shell-shocked by the Ecuador onslaught.
20'
YELLOW CARD, QATAR, ALI. The Qatar striker is booked for a rash tackle, no doubt frustrated a having been staved of possession.
22'
Ecuador controlling possession beautifully and looking to extend their lead. Qatar meanwhile are desperately trying to get some time on the ball.
24'
Qatar again losing possession quickly… they just can't shake off Ecuador's high-pressing tactics.
26'
Over 80% of possession has been in the Qatar half a Ecuador continue to dominate!
28'
YELLOW CARD, ECUADOR, CAICEDO. The big Ecuador midfielder is booked for a rash challenge. It's been a tough start to the match and the referee has been quick to draw the line for the players.
31'
GOAL, ECUADOR, VALENCIA! 0-2; Valencia with a powerful, leaping header from in line with the back post from just outside the six-yard box, and it flies into the left corner of the goal as Al Sheeb has no chance of stopping it. Superb strike for the skipper's second goal of the night… and the third time he's had the ball in the back of the net!
33'
Qatar finally get a shot at goal, but Hassan's effort flies highinto the crowd.
35'
YELLOW CARD, QATAR, BOUDIAF. Ecuador working the ball around from the back, but Karim Boudiaf clips Valencia from behind to earn a yellow card of his own.
37'
Play resumes and Estupiñán lobs the freekick too deep and Al Sheeb collects it.
38'
Qatar try to attack but Ecuador break it down and hit them on the counter, but Valencia fouls Al Rawi to allow Qatar a moment of respite.
40'
Qatar on the attack with Afif, but he is robbed of the ball and the attack breaks down
42'
This doesn't look good; the stretcher is on for Valencia, who has been down after a heavy challenge, but the stretcher has been waved away and he's hobbling to the touchline. He won't want to lose out on a hat-trick, so hopefully he can be patched up at half-time.
44'
Qatar with the ball pushing at the Ecuador box… but again Ecuador rob them of possession and take control of the ball. Valencia is back on the field thankfully.
45'
HALF-TIME, QATAR 0-2 ECUADOR. What a sensational start to this World Cup, but what a punch to the guts for the hosts. Ecuador have been superb all half, controlling most of the possession, dominating the play and refusing to allow Qatar time on the ball. Qatar have looked flat and lost, with only two bright moments all half, while Ecuador must be thrilled with their performance. And what about Valencia putting the ball in the net three times, albeit the first effort being ruled off-side! Magical stuff! Ecuador will want to drive the advantage home early to get a third goal to cement their lead, but Qatar still have talent on board even if they're looking like a beaten side… if they can regroup and come out fresh and firing for the second half then we could still be in for a cracking finish, as 2-0 might be a great lead, but it's far too early to be calling for your slippers and pipe. Wow, that was a breathtaking 45 minutes of football - we're back in a few minutes for the second half!
45'
CHANCE! Ali is open on the six-yard line, he rises high to get his head to the ball but it glances off his face and away from danger. Great opportunity for the hosts, but a very difficult chance to take at pace while leaping so high. But it will give Qatar an emotional boost as they head into the changing-room for half-time.
45'
Preciado going in far too hard from behind gives Qatar a free kick and time to regroup.
45'
Qatar with the throw and they put a ball forward on the edge of the box but they can't keep possession and Ecuador take their ball back again. This must be so frustrating for the Qatar players and their fans... but pure delight for Ecuador.
45'
Five minutes of stoppage time has been called.
46'
Qatar have come out and are looking far more assured on the ball… and with that Ecuador steal possession and launch a brief counter-attack.
46'
Kick-off! We're underway with the second half here at the Al Bayt Stadium.
47'
Aziz is fouled and Qatar have a free-kick on the halfway line.
49'
Qatar work the ball up from the back but a loose touch gifts possession to Ecuador.
50'
Lovely run into the Qatar box but the defence break the attack down and clear the danger.
51'
Another good run into the Qatar box is broken down, before the ball runs out to Preciado who lashes a shot high into the crowd behind the Qatar net.
52'
Plata with a lovely run from near the halfway line into the Qatar box, but neither of the two attackers in the box are able to get their feet to the cross. What a great opportunity to total break Qatar's spirit… might that rue that miss?
54'
GREAT SAVE! Al Sheeb dives to his right and palms a shot from Ibarra away. It looks like all the Ecuador players are keen to ripple the next.
56'
YELLOW CARD, ECUADOR, MENDEZ. Ecuador's midfielder is booked for a heavy challenge.
58'
Torres launches a long ball into the Qatar box but it's too deep.
59'
Preciado is down injured… he leaves the pitch for some treatment as Ecuador are down to 10 men briefly before he is hailed back by the referee.
61'
Qatar press forward with a long ball to the edge of the box, but Ecuador steal possession.
63'
The Qatar fans are strong of voice tonight despite the scoreline… will it be enough to lift their team to get back into this match?
65'
Really good possession for Qatar who are playing with a great deal more confidence.
67'
SUBSTITUTION, ECUADOR, IBARRA. Ibarra makes way for Sarmiento
68'
Excellent passing and control from Ecuador who work their way into the Qatar box before being pushed back.
69'
Qatar press into the Ecuador box but are quickly muscled off the ball.
70'
Estupiñán lobs a free-kick into the box, but Qatar clear the danger.
71'
SUBSTITUTION, QATAR. Al Haydos is replaced by Al Bayati, while Ali makes way for Muntari.
73'
Qatar building their confidence with some good passing that brings them close to the Ecuador goal, but Afif blasts a shot over the bar from distance. To be fair, it's the sort of opportunity he has scored from in the past, so it was worth having a crack when trailing by two goals.
75'
SUBSTITUTION, ECUADOR. Valencia's race is run, and he makes way for Charcop… but what a contribution the Ecuador skipper has made to the match!
78'
YELLOW CARD, QATAR, AFIF. The Qatar forward goes in too heavily with a challenge from behind, with possibly frustrating being behind his challenge.
80'
Some excellent attacking from Ecuador leads to Plata darting into the box to challenge Al Sheeb for the ball, but the Qatar keeper is just too quick, and they collide heavily but both get to their feet without a problem.
82'
Ecuador with the chance to swing a free kick in from the right flank... Torres getting good contact on the ball but it's hit too hard and goes out for a goal-kick.
84'
Qatar back in possession and working the ball around confidently… but Ecuador steal possession, dart towards the Qatar goal but the ball is too hard and it goes out for a goal-kick.
86'
CLOSE! A long-back from the back into the Qatar box gives Muntari the chance to strike on goal, but it's just too hard, hitting the top of the next as it dipped just too late.
89'
SUBSTITUTION, ECUADOR. Estrada is replaced by Rodríguez and Caicedo is off for Franco.
90'
Qatar with a corner delivered beautifully on the six-yard line but it's headered powerfully away… and there's the final whistle!
90'
Ecuador with a corner from the left, Rodriguez rises to header but it's too wide.
90'
Once again we have five minutes of extra timeæ enough time to score twice but Qatar don't look like they have even one goal in them at the moment.
Qatar
Qatar
Ecuador
Ecuador
0
Goal Scorers
2
16' Valencia E...
31' Valencia E...
0
Yellow Cards
0
0
Red Cards
0
11
Squad
11
Al Sheeb Saad
Miguel Pedro
Hasan Fadla...
Hatem Abdul...
Al Haidos H...
Afif Akram
Boudiaf Karim
Elamin Homam
Al-Rawi Bassam
Khoukhi Bou...
Ali Almoez
1
2
3
6
10
11
12
14
15
16
19
1
2
3
7
10
11
13
17
19
20
23
Galindez He...
Torres Felix
Hincapie Piero
Estupinan P...
Ibarra Romario
Estrada Mic...
Valencia Enner
Preciado An...
Plata Gonzalo
Mendez Jhegson
Caicedo Moises
15
Reserves
15
Mohammad Is...
Assadalla Ali
Hassan Ali ...
Madibo Assim
Salman Tarek
Muntari Moh...
Kheder Musab
Al Hajri Salem
Alaaeldin A...
Muneer Maze...
Barsham Mes...
Waad Mohammed
Mashaal Mus...
Al-Hadhrami...
Abulsallam ...
17
8
21
23
5
9
13
20
7
18
22
4
26
24
25
8
15
9
4
22
14
21
18
12
24
25
6
16
26
5
Gruezo Carlos
Mena Angel
Preciado Ay...
Arboleda Ro...
Dominguez A...
Arreaga Xavier
Franco Alan
Palacios Diego
Ramirez Moises
Reasco Djor...
Porozo Jackson
Pacho William
Sarmiento J...
Rodriguez K...
Cifuentes Jose