A scare for Qatar as Ecuador won the opening game

The moment Qatar had been waiting for for almost 12 years had arrived, and things didn’t go the way the country and its national team expected.

AL KHOR, Qatar (AP) — A large number of empty seats in the second half summed up Qatar’s soccer team’s disappointing start to its first-ever World Cup.

The night began with more than 67,000 fans, mostly Qatari, filling the cavernous Al Bait Stadium to enjoy the opening ceremony, which showcased the tiny Arab emirate to a global audience 12 years after winning the right to host football’s biggest event.

It all ended with Qatar’s lackluster team being dragged off the field, its unwanted place in football history secured and many of its anxious fans long gone.

The controversy-filled tournament opened on Sunday with the 2019 Asian Cup champions losing 2-0 against Ecuador, the first time the host team has lost its opening game at a World Cup.

“I would say we felt bad (for our fans),” Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said. “I hope they will be more proud in the next game.”

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Ecuador captain Ener Valencia scored both of his side’s goals in the first half of a one-sided game that ended up being a damage-limitation exercise for Qatar on one of the biggest nights in the country’s history.

The match followed a colorful 30-minute opening ceremony — hosted by Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman and attended by dignitaries including Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — that promoted inclusivity and humanity living under one roof.

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