Ecuador defeated World Cup debutants Qatar 2-0 on Sunday, thanks to first-half goals from veteran striker Enner Valencia, in a one-sided contest that marked the tournament’s first setback for a host nation.
Ecuador’s all-time leading scorer, dubbed “Superman” at home, netted an early penalty and added a well-placed header in the 31st minute to give the South Americans a dominating first-half lead as the host side froze with the magnitude of the event.
It might have been worse for the Qataris, who were kicking off the Middle East’s first World Cup in front of 67,372 fans at the tent-shaped Al Bayt stadium.
Valencia had a header disallowed in the third minute for a borderline offside after shaky goalkeeper Saad Alsheeb fumbled at the ball.
Ecuador pressed on, and Valencia calmly converted a penalty in the 16th minute after Alsheeb tripped him.
Valencia was unmarked for his second but still showed excellent skill to descend and accept Angelo Preciado’s cross virtually from behind him to head past Alsheeb once again.
“I dreamt so many times about winning this opening match. This was a dream that I managed to score and help my team get the three points,” Valencia said.
“We managed to score a couple of quick goals which helped us to get control of the game … We think we can go very far and perform well.”