Qatar may be the smallest country to host the tournament, but controversy over bribery and corruption leading to FIFA handing them the hosting rights has reached an all-time high.
Accusations of the country’s poor treatment of migrant workers and environmental concerns have been intense soon after FIFA announced them as the 2022 World Cup hosts in 2010.
Felix Sanchez’s side will have to rise above malicious posts linking Qatar with bribing Ecuador that first surfaced on Amjad Taha’s Twitter account, which boasts over 400,000 followers.
Despite entering a highly competitive Group A consisting of the Netherlands, Ecuador and Senegal, the Maroon will fancy their chances in a strange environment.
With nations having to play a World Cup in the winter, unfamiliar territory for everyone and uncomfortable for many, Qatar could be a chaotic component in this group.
In stark contrast to other Group A participants, Sanchez’s entire squad plies their trade in the domestic championship and is not used to playing these high-octane games.
Having featured in three of the five previous World Cups in the 21st century, Ecuador should have the upper hand despite underperforming during their warm-up campaign.
La Tri last appeared at the tournament in 2014, but even though they only lost once in their three group matches (W1, D1), they failed to make it out to the knockout rounds.
The Ecuadorians were initially the third favourites to progress from Group A, yet, with Senegal’s Sadio Mane picking up an injury, they may see a window of opportunity.
With Qatar winning all three of their previous matches at Al Bayt Stadium by an aggregate scoreline of 9-0, it’s no wonder the World Cup opener takes place at this venue.
None of the previous 11 nations from the AFC confederation have won their maiden World Cup fixture (D1, L10), so there’s a piece of history up for grabs, which could provide a strong motivation.
Speaking of history, South Africa remains the only host nation to have failed to advance into the knockout stage, again backing Qatar’s bid to pull off an upset.
Each of Ecuador’s last three international friendlies preceding the tournament has yielded a 0-0 draw, with Gustavo Alfaro’s team recording six straight shut-outs in the build-up to the World Cup (W2, D4).
Against the backdrop of the Ecuadorian’s recent propensity for stalemates, only one of their ten previous World Cup matches has ended level (W4, L5).
However, except for a 2-0 beating of Poland in their opening 2006 World Cup outing, the South American giants have lost the other two matchday-one contests at the final tournaments.
Qatar vs Ecuador Potential Line-ups
Qatar (5-2-1-2): Saad Al-Sheeb; Miguel Ro-Ro, Bassam Al-Rawi, Tarek Salman, Abdelkarim Hassan, Homam Ahmed; Abdulaziz Hatem, Karim Boudiaf; Hassan Al-Haydos; Almoez Ali, Akram Afif.
Ecuador (4-3-3): Alexander Dominguez; Angelo Preciado, Felix Torres, Piero Hincapie, Pervis Estupinan; Carlos Gruezo, Moises Caicedo, Jose Cifuentes; Gonzalo Plata, Enner Valencia, Romario Ibarra.
Qatar vs Ecuador Prediction
Interestingly, the last four curtain-raising World Cup fixtures have produced a total of 17 goals, at an average of 4.25 per match, highlighting the potential for a high-scoring contest.
But given Ecuador’s staunch rearguard, Sunday’s encounter may buck that trend as we back the South American nation to silence home fans by a slim margin.
Qatar 0-1 Ecuador
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