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Qatar humbled by Ecuador in opening World Cup match

Hosts beaten comfortably 2-0 by South American nation, leaving uphill battle to qualify for knockout stages
Qatar's Akram Afif gestures during the Group A football match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium (AFP)
Qatar's Akram Afif gestures during the Group A football match between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al-Bayt Stadium (AFP)

Hosts Qatar were comfortably beaten by Ecuador in the opening match of the World Cup on Sunday, dampening the spirits of Qataris after a grand opening ceremony

Ecuador won 2-0 at al-Bayt Stadium in al-Khor, on the outskirts of Doha, thanks to two first-half goals by former West Ham and Everton forward Enner Valencia. 

It means that Qatar become the first host nation to lose the opening match of a World Cup. 

The scoreline could have been worse for the hosts. An early goal by Valencia was ruled out for offside by the video assistant referee after a lengthy stoppage. 

The cheer as the goal was ruled out was perhaps the biggest of the night, but Qatar were unable to profit from the let-off. 

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Several journalists noted that thousands of home fans left the stadium at half time and did not return. More filed out during a flat second half when Qatar failed to rally and cause their opponents signifcant difficulties. 

It will now be an uphill battle for Qatar to make it to the knockout stages. 

Their remaining two games will be against the Netherlands and Senegal, both ranked higher than Ecuador. 

Arab leaders attend opening ceremony

Before the match kicked off, fans enjoyed a glitzy opening ceremony attended by several leaders from the Middle East. 

Among the stars to perform were Qatari singers Dana and Fahad al-Kubaisi, as well as Jung Kook, a member of South Korean boyband BTS. 

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American actor Morgan Freeman delivered a message of unity and overcoming divisions with disabled Qatari influencer Ghanim al-Muftah.

Fans were also treated to a traditional sword dance (known as Ardah), followed by a display of flags of all the participating nations and a mashup of previous World Cup songs, including Shakira's Waka Waka and K'naan's Wavin Flag.

Several Middle Eastern leaders were in attendance, including Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Erdogan and Sisi, whose countries are in the process of normalising relations after years of tensions, were pictured shaking hands and speaking to each other for the first time.

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