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[World Cup] Host country's undefeated streak ends as Qatar fall to Ecuador in opener

Nov. 21, 2022 - 09:26 By Yonhap
Enner Valencia of Ecuador (right) celebrates his goal against Qatar during the teams' Group A match at the FIFA World Cup at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, last Sunday. (Yonhap)

AL KHOR, Qatar -- The streak has ended. Qatar are now the first FIFA World Cup host country to lose their opening match.

No host nation had ever dropped their first match at the quadrennial tournament, dating back to 1934, until Sunday night, when Ecuador crashed Qatar's party with a 2-0 victory in the opening Group A showdown.

Captain Enner Valencia grabbed a brace for Ecuador at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, about 50 kilometers north of Doha, where Qatar did not put a shot on target.

Qatari players looked flustered early on, seemingly overwhelmed by the moment as they made their World Cup debut in front of 67,372 fans.

Many of those fans, though, left well before the final whistle blew. By the 85th minute mark, about a third of the stadium was empty.

This was also only the second time that a host country failed to score in their opening game. In 1970, Mexico were held to a 0-0 draw by the Soviet Union.

Qatar, the reigning Asian Cup champions, will now try to avoid becoming only the second host nation to miss the knockout stage. In 2010, South Africa finished third in Group A to get sent packing after three matches.

Qatar will next face Senegal on Friday and then the Netherlands on Nov. 29 to round out the group stage,

Ecuador thought they had opened the scoring in the third minute with Valencia's header, only to have it taken away on an offside call after a video assistant referee (VAR) review.

But Valencia had his moment in the 16th minute with a successful penalty. Valencia earned the spot kick after goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb tripped him up in the box, and beat the offender to the bottom right corner for a goal that counted.

Valencia then headed in a cross by Angelo Preciado in the 31st minute for his second of the night.

On the disallowed goal, FIFA's semi-automated offside technology made its presence felt from the opening minutes in its World Cup debut.

The official ball of the tournament, Al Rihla, is equipped with a sensor that sends ball data to the video operation room 500 times per second. For offside situations, kick points and positions of players' limbs are relayed to the VAR in real-time, using artificial intelligence.

After the call was made, a 3-D animation showing the exact same data points offered to officials was played on the stadium scoreboard and was also made available for television viewers.

The World Cup will pick up pace with three matches Monday.

South Korea's first match in Group H is against Uruguay on Thursday at Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, just west of Doha. (Yonhap)