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Enner Valencia puts in a masterful performance as Ecuador tops Qatar to open the World Cup

Enner Valencia, Ángelo Preciado shine as Ecuador beats Qatar to open the World Cup

Qatar v Ecuador: Group A - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Richard Sellers/Getty Images

The 2022 FIFA World Cup opened with the host nation Qatar taking on Ecuador in the opening match.

But from the opening whistle, it was all about Ecuador.

Ecuador kept the pressure on from the kickoff and saw a brace from Enner Valencia to take a 2-0 lead early in the match. They salted away the victory in the second half, earning the full three points in the opening match against Qatar in Group A action.

Just three minutes in, it looked like Ecuador had scored the first goal of the World Cup. A cross into the box saw Qatari keeper Saad Al Sheeb come off the line, and in the mad scramble for the ball, Valencia found it on his right foot, and put it in the back of the net:

But after a VAR check, the goal was taken off the board due to an offside ruling:

FOX Soccer analyst Stu Holden broke down the offside decision, and the technology that led to the call, in this video:

The match was level for the moment, but Qatar would not be as lucky a few minutes later.

The host team finally enjoyed a bit of possession, but in a flash Ecuador was back on the front foot. Again the Qatari keeper faced a difficult decision, Al Sheeb was caught between a rock and a hard place on the counter-attack from Ecuador. The keeper made the decision to come off the line late, and takes on Valencia, but the Ecuadorian striker stumbles to the turf, and was awarded the penalty.

He did not disappoint, cheekily putting his penalty in the right corner of the net as Al Sheeb dove to his right:

Valencia would notch his second goal of the game in the 31st minute, thanks to a pinpoint cross from right-back Ángelo Preciado:

Preciado layers his cross into the box perfectly, and Valencia puts the header past Al Sheeb, staking Ecuador to the early 2-0 lead.

Here is another look at the precise cross from Preciado into the box, and the finish from Valencia:

The assist from Preciado was just one moment in a tremendous opening half from the right-back, who was dominant both in the air, and on the ground:

For Valencia, his second goal of the match was his fifth-straight for La Tri in World Cup action:

He was hobbled late in the first half, and then limped off the pitch in the 76th minute, replaced by José Cifuentes. The Los Angeles FC midfielder made his World Cup debut with the substitution.

Valencia’s effort on Sunday was rather masterful, by the numbers:

Ecuador had a few more chances in the second half, with perhaps their best coming with the ball at the feet of Cifeuntes’ fresh legs, but they were unable to convert any of those chances in the final 30 minutes. Ecuador also had a corner in the 95th minute, but the ball into the box could not find a target, and went behind for a goal kick.

The host nation applied a bit of pressure in the final minutes, and Qatar had their best chance in the 86th minutes on a counter-attack. But the shot off the right foot of Mohammed Muntari rocketed over the top of the bar:

The host nation finished the match with five shots, putting none of them on target. Ecuador had five shots of their own, putting three on goal and converting the two from Valencia.

Both teams are in action next on Friday. Qatar will take on Senegal at 8:00 a.m. ET, while Ecuador will tangle with Netherlands at 11:00 a.m. ET in a highly-anticipated match. The Qatar match will be televised on FS1, while the Ecuador match will be broadcast on FOX.