On November 20, the FIFA World Cup kicks off in Qatar. As usual, the hosts have the honor of playing the opening match, and thus soccer fans worldwide will be treated with a snoozer of a game between Qatar and Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Luckily, that means this game will be more predictable than most assume.
Qatar heads into the World Cup in fine form, winning four out of their past five friendlies. The team has never reached this stage of the tournament and has the additional pressure of being the first Middle Eastern country to host a World Cup. Qatar has the third lowest FIFA ranking of all teams at the tournament, ranked 50th in the world.
Despite being underdogs heading into the match, Qatar has the boost of being the home nation. The home nation has never lost the opening match in the history of the World Cup, and only once has a home nation failed to qualify past the group stages (South Africa in 2010). However, it will be a tall task for the Maroons to continue this trend, as they are expected to finish last in Group A.
Ecuador is returning to the World Cup after missing out in 2018 and is hoping to qualify past the group stages for the second time in their nation’s history. They had one of the stingiest defenses throughout CONMEBOL qualifying, allowing the least amount of goals scored by any team not named Argentina or Brazil. They have only lost once in their last ten games and know how to grind out results. La Tri is the dark horse of Group A, with many people undervaluing their chances of making it through to the next round. Ecuador is ranked 44th in the world according to FIFA’s rankings.
As mentioned earlier, this game will be a snoozefest with two conflicting philosophies. Qatar loves to attack but struggles to defend, while Ecuador is the opposite. Expect a messy match, with Ecuador playing game management throughout, causing the hosts to crumble under pressure. The total for this game is set at 2.5 goals, with the under heavily expected to hit since Ecuador is allergic to goals. Over their past five games, only one goal has been scored by either side.
Qatar vs. Ecuador Players to Watch
Hassan Al-Haydos (QAT)
Abdelkarim Hassan (QAT)
Almoez Ali (QAT)
Moises Caicedo (ECU)
Sebas Mendez (ECU)
Enner Valencia (ECU)
Qatar vs. Ecuador Best Bets
Ecuador Moneyline (+130)
Ecuador will be the first team to get a win against the hosts on an opening day in the history of the World Cup. They know how to grind out wins, as evident from their qualifying. Their stingy philosophy will frustrate an inexperienced Qatar. La Tri faces the Netherlands in their second game, and they know that a win against Qatar is necessary if they want to keep their qualification chances in their own hands. If Ecuador can survive the volatile first half on Sunday, they will settle into the game as it goes on.
Enner Valencia Anytime Goal (+220)
Enner Valencia is the Erling Haaland of the Turkish Super League. He has 13 goals in 12 league games for Fenerbahce, including three in his past three games. He is the all-time leading goalscorer for Ecuador with 35 goals in 74 games and leads the line as the sole striker. He is the only player to score in open play for La Tri since early 2021. At +220, this seems like a no-brainer, especially considering Qatar does not have a strong defense. The Maroons have conceded ten goals over their last ten games.
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