• Rowan Mackey

World Cup recap - Day 1

Day One - Qatar 0 - 2 Ecuador

The first match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup saw hosts Qatar fall short against a rampant Ecuadorian side. Read below for the five things we learned from last night’s result, plus what you can look forward to in tonight’s games.


Five Things We Learned

It’s Been a Long Time Since the Asian Cup

It’s been a long 3 years since Qatar lifted the Asian Cup trophy in Abu Dhabi in 2019. Much has been made of the decision to award Qatar this year’s World Cup, and despite it being undoubtedly a huge thing for the small Middle-Eastern nation, it seems that their players were overawed by the gravity of last night’s occasion.


Ecuador asserted themselves on the game from the opening whistle and found the net within 3 minutes, only to have the video-assisted referee overturn the goal with an enormously controversial offside decision.


But Ecuador didn’t let it phase them, and they found the net legitimately 13 minutes later. Saad Al Sheeb, the Qatari goalkeeper brought down former West Ham and Everton striker Enner Valencia in the penalty box, and the referee awarded the penalty.


Valencia was then able to make amends for his disallowed goal earlier and slot the goal from the penalty spot to take Ecuador ahead.


It wasn’t to be Valencia’s last involvement in the game, though, as he powerfully headed Ecuador’s second home to double their lead in the 31st minute.


The Qataris will be looking to pick themselves up quickly with a must-win game against Senegal only 5 days away. Ecuador now faces The Netherlands, and a win in that game will most likely see them qualify for the knockout stage of this year’s tournament.



Enner Valencia scored two goals and had a third disallowed to lead Ecuador to a win over Qatar on opening night.



South Americans Physicality Shows Up Asian Champions

Qatar had twelve years to prepare for the first game of this year’s World Cup, but you wouldn’t know it watching the first half of their first game against Ecuador. The Qatari’s looked reactive from the first minute of the game and seemed to struggle with the physicality of their South American opponents.


The disallowed goal, only three minutes into the game, was the result of Saad Al Shaab, the Qatari goalkeeper, making a mess of a high ball, clashing with his own defender and spilling the ball. As the ball bobbled precariously around the box, Ecuadorian defender Felix Torres acrobatically took the ball out of the air and sliced it off the side of his boot into the path of Valencia, who headed the ball into the back of the net.

This set the tone for the rest of the game. Ecuador soon stamped their authority with two legitimate first-half goals, and Qatar could not come back from there.


Enner Valencia is a World Cup Specialist

Ecuadorian Captain Enner Valencia is a beast at the World Cup Finals. He has now played 4 games in World Cup Finals and scored an exemplary 5 goals. When paired with his overall international record of 75 games and 37 goals for Ecuador, it’s clear that he finds another level when he’s on the world’s biggest stage.


VAR Still Has a Long Way To Go…

Suspicious disbelief permeated Twitter feeds internationally as Ecuador had a seemingly fair goal against the hosts disallowed only three minutes into this year’s World Cup. In a tournament overshadowed by the controversial circumstances surrounding the football itself, the last thing the tournament organisers would have wanted was a controversial on-field decision that benefitted Qatar so soon into the first game.


VAR (video-assisted referee) was introduced into football to eliminate any “clear and obvious error” a referee has made in a game. This goal did not look like a clear and obvious error, and there were very few camera angles shown to viewers to demonstrate how the video referee had come to their decision.



No Ecuadorian player appeared to be offside in initial replays of the disallowed goal



The 2022 World Cup is the first World Cup where we see new technology implemented to help referees determine whether a player was offside, and it appears that this was the first time this technology was used.


Following the game, England’s BBC released a picture that showed how the technology is being used to determine whether a player is offside at this World Cup. It does appear that the Ecuadorian player was, in fact, offside, but it underscores the importance of communicating the referees’ decision-making process to viewers.


Technology that increases the accuracy and efficiency of decisions made during a game is undoubtedly a good thing for football, but it robs the sport of its spectacle if the audience is excluded from access to the information that goes into making these decisions.


Even if the new technology leads to increased accuracy in refereeing decisions, there is a risk that the new offside technology turns this World Cup into a farcical spectacle if referees continue to make decisions that are counterintuitive to those expected by spectators watching the game. This is exacerbated if there is no communication as to how the referee has come to this decision.


A simple solution would be to allow viewers to see all of the pictures that the VAR has available when making their decision, but there is no indication that this is likely to change any time soon.


Football Isn’t Fixed (Thank Goodness!)

Before the first game of the World Cup between Qatar and Ecuador, it was reported that the Ecuadorian players had been offered millions of dollars to lose the game 1 - 0 with a goal in the second-half.


Luckily, this result did not eventuate, despite suspicions being aroused by a controversial goal disallowed to Ecuador only three minutes into the game.


As the game progressed, it was clear that there was no fix in this game as the Ecuadorians took control and completely dominated their opponents in the first half.


When Qatari striker Almoez Ali missed a gilt-edged opportunity to pull a goal back for Qatar just before half-time, it was clear that this game wasn’t a simple case of the Ecuadorians throwing the game and letting their opponents win.




Middle Eastern political affairs expert and author Amjad Taha’s Tweet was widely circulated before Qatar’s first game of this year’s World Cup.



Despite the many controversial elements to this year’s World Cup, thankfully, obvious match-fixing is not something we have to include in the long list of indiscretions from tournament organisers just yet.



Tonight’s schedule

12am AEDT - ENGLAND v IRAN

First up tonight, we have a chance to see the first of the tournament contenders as England takes on Iran.


Iran is not to be underestimated, despite being a heavy underdog in this game. Currently ranked 20th in FIFA’s World Rankings, they have recently seen the return of their longest-serving coach Carlos Queiroz who returns to the Iranian National Team after helping guide Egypt to the final of the African Cup of Nations in 2021. Iran has several top players, including Mehdi Taremi, who plies his trade with Porto in Portugal.


Taremi has been directly involved in 70 goals in 79 games for Porto, and his teammates will be hoping he can translate that form to the biggest stage.


Another of the Iranian players to look out for is goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who has the world record for the longest throw by a goalkeeper. It’s pretty incredible to see him launch the ball the length of the field, so let’s hope we get to see the best of Beiranvand in this World Cup, starting with tonight’s game against England.


England is likely to be one of the better sides at this World Cup, but much has been made of Gareth Southgate’s 26-man squad that he’s selected for this World Cup. As with previous World Cups tournaments, there will be as much pressure on England to perform as any other nation that’s competing this year. W will get our first chance to see how this England team copes with that pressure tonight.


3am AEDT - SENEGAL v NETHERLANDS

In tonight’s second game, we get to see the other two sides in Group A. After Ecuador easily swept aside Qatar in last night’s game, these teams will be aware of the importance of goal difference in the rest of their games in this year’s tournament. If either of these teams loses by more than one goal, it will be difficult to come back from their goal difference deficit after Ecuador put itself in a commanding position early in Group A.


Senegal will be without superstar Sadio Mané, but they still boast a talented squad. They will look to others, including 20-year-old Tottenham starlet Papa Matar Sarr, Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibali and Everton’s Idrissa Gueye to fill the void left by Mané.


The Netherlands will go into this game as heavy favourites after their recent run of form sees them as one of the best-performing national teams in recent times. They remain undefeated (11 wins, 4 draws) since they lost 2 - 0 to Czechia in June 2021 and will hope to continue that run against Senegal.


The Netherland’s defence of Virgil Van Dijk, Nathan Ake and Jurrien Timber is amongst the best in world football, so Senegal will have to be at the top of their game if they have any chance of scoring even one goal against Louis Van Gaal’s Orenje.



6am AEDT - UNITED STATES vs WALES

For those who enjoy their beauty sleep and don’t want to stay up til all hours watching football on a weeknight, this is the first match you’ll get to watch the World Cup without ruining your sleep routine.


With England lurking as the heavy favourites to win Group B, both these sides will recognise the importance of this game as it’s unlikely the loser will qualify beyond the group stages of this year’s tournament. A win, however, would go a long way to qualifying either of these teams for the knockout stages.


These teams have had mixed results in their recent performances. Wales, for example, suffered defeats to Poland, Belgium and The Netherlands in their most recent games. These games may yet hold the Welsh in good stead, however, as they were all against better teams than The USA.


Since qualifying for the World Cup, Gregg Berhalter’s American team has only enjoyed a single victory against Grenada. Looking at their form and seeing recent draws with Uruguay, El Salvador and Saudi Arabia, plus a loss to Japan, will draw some nerves from American fans. However, they will still feel they are a genuine chance to qualify from Group B against similarly ranked sides such as Wales and Iran. This will be especially true if they can win or draw in their first game against Wales tonight.


There’s every chance we’ll see a high-scoring affair in these sides first encounter of this year’s World Cup, as they are both weighted in attack when it comes to the strength of their squads.


All Welsh eyes will be on Gareth Bale, who now plays his club football in America, but he will have his hands full against Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and an American side that contains some of the best American players we’ve seen in recent times.


Regardless of tonight’s results in any of the three games, there will likely be plenty of goals and interesting storylines to come out of these three exciting games.


Stay tuned for the day two recap....



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