Qatar will look to kick off the FIFA World Cup 2022 with a bang when they welcome Ecuador to the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.

The wait is over. The FIFA World Cup 2022 is here, and the month-long extravaganza begins in Al Khor on Sunday. There has been a lot of controversy over the latest edition of the World Cup. But all that will likely become white noise when Qatar and Ecuador face off at the Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday evening.

Qatar qualified for the FIFA World Cup 2022 by being the host nation. But they have blown hot and cold this year, although they have lost only three of their 21 games. The Maroon participated in a preparatory camp in Marbella ahead of the World Cup, winning all five matches, the latest being a 1-0 victory over Albania.

On the other hand, Ecuador’s journey to the FIFA World Cup 2022 has been a rollercoaster. La Tri reached Qatar 2022 by finishing fourth in the CONMEBOL leg of the qualifiers. That earned them an automatic ticket to the group stage. But Chile filed an appeal, which CAS later rejected, saying Ecuador had fielded an ineligible player. Meanwhile, Gustavo Alfaro’s men are on a seven-game unbeaten run, although they have won only five matches.

Qatar and Ecuador most recently clashed in a friendly in October 2018, with the Maroon eking out a 4-3 win. The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 curtain raiser at the Al Bayt Stadium.

Team News & Tactics


Felix Sanchez has one injury concern hampering his preparations ahead of the game against Ecuador. On Sunday, the Qatar head coach might be without one player, with Ahmed Alaaeldin picking up an unspecified injury against Albania.

But Alaaeldin might not have featured anyway, with Qatar’s strike partnership set in stone. Almoez Ali, the joint-top scorer for Qatar with 42 goals, will line up alongside Akram Afif to form the front two. Afif was the leading light for the Maroon at the AFC Asian Cup in 2019 and will look to have a memorable World Cup bow.

Captain Hassan Al-Haydos picks himself behind the two strikers, with the trio Qatar’s best bet to get past a stubborn Ecuador defence. Abdulaziz Hatem and Karim Boudiaf will likely be the two midfielders for the hosts. The duo will look to keep things tight in the middle of the park.

Ro-Ro and Homam Ahmed will line up as the two wing-backs. But the duo will likely stay back to form a back five and cut out the passing lanes for Ecuador. But they will provide width in the final third when they get the chance to progress.

Abdelkarim Hassan will be the leader at the back, sitting alongside Tarek Salman and Bassam Al-Rawi to form the back three. Finally, Saad Al Sheeb will take his place between the sticks for Qatar against Ecuador.

Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Al Sheeb; Al-Rawi, Salman, Hassan; Ro-Ro, Hatem, Boudiaf, Ahmed; Al-Haydos; Ali, Afif


Like his counterpart in the Qatar dugout, Gustavo Alfaro has seen a player sustain an issue ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2022 opener. But the Ecuador head coach has a full-strength squad as Byron Castillo is not in the final 26-man unit.

Alfaro will line his side up in a 4-3-3 formation, and Ecuador will look to win the midfield battle against Qatar. The three central midfielders are the strength for La Tri, spearheaded by Moises Caicedo. The 21-year-old is a man in demand in Europe, and he will need support from Carlos Gruezo and Jose Cifuentes.

Enner Valencia remains evergreen for Ecuador and will play his second World Cup with La Tri. The 33-year-old will lead the line for Ecuador against Qatar, looking to catch the hosts’ defence off guard. Gonzalo Plata and Romario Ibarra will likely provide support from the flanks, looking to cut in and put Qatar’s defence under pressure.

Piero Hincapie has taken to life in Europe brilliantly. And the 24-year-old will marshall La Tri’s backline, with Feli Torres being his central defensive partner. Angelo Preciado and Pervis Estupinan will be the two full-backs, with the latter being the creative force for Ecuador. Finally, Alexander Dominguez should line up in the goal against Qatar.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dominguez; Preciado, Torres, Hincapie, Estupinan; Gruezo, Caicedo, Cifuentes; Plata, Valencia, Ibarra

Key Stats

  • Qatar and Ecuador have met three times previously, all matches taking place in Qatar. Their head-to-head record is perfectly balanced, with one win each and one draw (six goals each). Their last encounter saw Qatar win 4-3 in a friendly in October 2018.
  • The last four opening matches of a FIFA World Cup edition have produced a total of 17 goals, at an average of 4.25 per game. Sunday’s game will be the first time the tournament is kicking off on a Sunday since the 1982 edition, with Belgium beating holders Argentina 1-0 in Barcelona.
  • Senegal are the last FIFA World Cup debutant to win their first-ever match at the tournament, beating defending champions France 1-0 in the 2002 edition. Meanwhile, Qatar have won all three of their previous games played at Al Bayt Stadium, with an aggregate score of 9-0.
  • Ecuador’s best performance at the FIFA World Cup thus far came back in 2006 when they reached the Round of 16. That tournament marks the only occasion that they have won their opening group match, beating Poland 2-0.
  • Qatar will look to become the first nation from the AFC confederation to win their first-ever FIFA World Cup match. Ten of the previous 11 sides have lost (including Israel in 1970), with Kuwait in 1982 being the only side to avoid defeat (1-1 vs Czechoslovakia).

Player to Watch

Moises Caicedo

Embed from Getty Images

Moises Caicedo has become a hot property in Europe on the back of stellar performances for Brighton & Hove Albion. The 21-year-old is one of the best young midfielders who will feature at the FIFA World Cup 2022. And amid interest from Chelsea, Liverpool, and Manchester United, his stock can rise further in the coming weeks.

Caicedo will be the go-to man for Gustavo Alfaro in Qatar, starting with the game against the hosts. The youngster will look to keep things tight in the middle of the park, thus setting the tone for the attackers to clinch a narrow win on Sunday.


Qatar 0-1 Ecuador

Controversy has followed the two teams in the build-up to the FIFA World Cup 2022 opener. The latest reports suggest that Qatar approached eight Ecuador players with bribes to lose the game. But such a suggestion might be wide off the mark, as things stand. As for the game, it should be contested closely.

The latest meeting between Qatar and Ecuador was a goal fest. But Gustavo Alfaro and his charges thrive on low-scoring affairs. So very little should separate the two teams at the full-time whistle. And while Qatar might hope for a fairytale start to the World Cup journey, the visitors will grab the match-winner to break the home fans’ hearts.

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