The first ever World Cup in the Middle-East is finally upon us, and we are not short of talking points in the tournament’s first week.
There’s been so much to enjoy in the Qatar World Cup opening week. All eight beautiful stadiums were in use for the first time. We’ve seen an array of the world’s best players take to the pitch. We’ve seen wonderful goals, shock results and a brilliant opening ceremony.
Ecuador cruise to opening day win
The opening game of the world cup began in spectacular fashion as we were treated to a fantastic opening ceremony rich with Qatari traditions and culture. Hollywood star Morgan Freeman led the show, along with local YouTuber Ghanim Al Muftaha. There was an excellent section paying tribute to previous editions of the tournament, with every World Cup mascot making an appearance. Korean popstar sensation Jungkook also performed his official World Cup song, ‘Dreamers’.
Once the ceremony ended, the time for waiting was over, and we witnessed history being made with the first game of the 2022 World Cup. The hosts, Qatar, faced South American challengers in Ecuador. There was early drama as VAR chalked off a goal for Ecuador in the first three minutes, with defender Michael Estrada judged offside in the build-up.
They didn’t have to wait long to score a legitimate goal. A penalty was won when forward Enner Valencia knocked the ball around Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb and was fouled as he was about to tap the ball in. Valencia brushed himself off and tucked away the penalty to make it 1-0. He was the goalscorer again on the half-hour mark as he got on the end of Angelo Preciado’s cross. 2-0 proved too high of a mountain to climb for Qatar, and Ecuador easily saw the rest of the game out comfortably.
England start with a big win
Gareth Southgate’s England side got their campaign underway with an impressive 6-2 win over Iran at Khalifa International Stadium. Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka were the star men for the Three Lions as they looked to improve upon their semi-final finish in 2018.
Sadly, England’s captain and top striker, Harry Kane, suffered a knock. The extent of the injury on his right ankle is still unknown. However, his involvement in the rest of this tournament will be vital to the team’s success as they progress through the games.
Wales’ grand return
Elsewhere in group B, Wales made a historic return to the World Cup with their opening game vs the USA at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium.
Rob Page’s team struggled in the first half and found themselves 1-0 down at half-time thanks to a goal from Timothy Weah. But a substitution for Wales at the break changed the game and tipped things back into their favour. Forward Kieffer Moore made a big difference in gaining back control of the game, but it was the star man Gareth Bale who won a penalty and the chance to equalise with 10 minutes to go.
Bale has won countless trophies at the club level and is no stranger to scoring in big games. He stepped up for his country and buried that penalty that earned them a valuable point in their opening match. Their next match will be against Iran before a crunch match against British neighbours England on November 29th.
Saudis shock Messi’s Argentina
In the biggest shock of the week, Saudi Arabia achieved an astonishing result in their opening match against Argentina at Lusail Stadium.
The Argentines headed into the game on a 36-game unbeaten streak spanning over three years. It looked like that run was set to continue when Leandro Paredes was wrestled to the turf at a free-kick. Lionel Messi, with his eyes set on the trophy that has alluded his long and successful career, tucked away the spot-kick to give Argentina the lead.
Saudi Arabia stayed competitive, though. They regrouped at half-time and took the game to their opponents in the second half. Within 8 minutes of the restart, they had turned the game around and led 2-1. From there, they saw the game out impeccably and dealt Argentina, a tournament favourite, a massive blow.
Reigning champs get up and running
And finally, World Cup holders France got their defence of the crown up and running with a 4-1 win over Australia at Al Janoub Stadium.
The French were a goal down after nine minutes but didn’t panic and worked their way back into the game with ease. It was a historic night for Olivier Giroud, who pulled himself level with Thierry Henry as France’s all-time record goalscorer. The AC Milan striker scored two goals and will be desperate to go on and break that record outright over the next few weeks as France continues their quest to win back-to-back World Cups.
The week ahead will be defining for many teams. Can Qatar recover from their opening loss and find a way into the knockout stages? Can Saudi Arabia continue shocking the big sides and make it out of their group? There is still absolutely everything to play for, for all 32 nations.
Source: Euro News