World Cup debutants Qatar and South America’s lowest-qualifying nation Ecuador each know Sunday’s opener is their finest probability for a win in Group A earlier than dealing with a lot scarier rivals.
Ranked a lowly fiftieth and forty fourth on the earth respectively, Qatar and Ecuador will probably be hard-pressed to progress as one of many high two of their group with out profitable on the Al Bayt Stadium, the place the Center East’s first World Cup kicks off at 4pm.The extra daunting prospects of African champions Senegal and perennial powerhouse the Netherlands await them subsequent.
Every, nevertheless, has cause for quiet confidence. Qatar had longer than most squads to bond throughout European camps, beat a number of Central American sides in current friendlies, and draw self-belief from their 2019 Asian Cup title.
Although many outsiders count on Qatar to be soundly drubbed in all three video games, house followers know forwards Akram Afif and Almoez Ali have each expertise and expertise and pray they’ll penetrate an Ecuador workforce themselves struggling to attain of late.
“Clearly, I am not speaking about Qatar profitable the World Cup, however competing at a superb degree towards these three groups is our problem,” stated coach Felix Sanchez.
“Then that is soccer, and also you by no means know what can occur.”
- Ecuador vs Qatar – Group A, kick-off 4pm
Ecuador are rightly favourites on Sunday, having punched their approach into the fourth and final spot from arguably the world’s hardest qualifying marketing campaign. They boast some extra recognisable names than the Qataris, together with Premier League midfielder Moises Caicedo and veteran striker Enner Valencia.
“Consider in us! We’re working as laborious as we will to offer pleasure to the entire nation,” stated Valencia.
Qatar are sweating over the health of Ahmed Alaaeldin, who got here off in final week’s pleasant with an unspecified harm. Almoez Ali – the joint-leading scorer for his nation with 42 objectives – is predicted to associate Akram Afif up entrance if he’s declared match.
In defence, 130-cap worldwide Abdelkarim Hassan might marshall a five-man backline whereas captain Hassan Al-Haydos will eye his one hundred and seventieth cap behind the strikers rather than Ali Asad.
Ecuador will choose both Angelo Preciado or Robert Arboleda at right-back. Arboleda has solely simply recovered from an ankle fracture.
Moises Caicedo, Carlos Gruezo or Jeremy Sarmiento didn’t function within the current pleasant towards Iraq however the trio are all anticipated to begin alongside striker Enner Valencia.
Sky Sports activities’ Nick Wright:
Ecuador secured qualification to the 2022 World Cup again in March nevertheless it was not till November, lower than two weeks earlier than the beginning of the match, that their place in Qatar was confirmed.
Up till then, the nation had been embroiled in a authorized wrangle involving defender Byron Castillo, with South American rivals Chile and Peru, who missed out on qualification however hoped to achieve a spot at Ecuador’s expense, arguing he was ineligible to symbolize them.
Castillo featured in eight of Ecuador’s qualifying matches however the grievance stemmed from claims that he was born in Tumaco, Colombia, in 1995, and never the Ecuadorian metropolis of Normal Villamill Playas in 1998, as said in his official paperwork.
The case was referred to the Court docket of Arbitration for Sport, who finally dominated that Castillo was actually eligible, regardless that he was born in Colombia and had used false details about his date and native land to acquire an Ecuadorian passport.
Ecuador have been hit with a £88,000 effective for utilizing false paperwork and can begin the South American qualifying marketing campaign for the 2026 World Cup with a three-point deduction, however they’ve arrived in Qatar hoping to grab their probability following the reprieve.
The irony of all of it is that Castillo, who performs for Mexican membership Leon, has not even been included in head coach Gustavo Alfaro’s 26-man squad for the match. Ecuador are eager to maneuver on from the episode, beginning within the opening recreation towards hosts Qatar on Sunday. However Castillo’s shadow lingers over their participation.
Ought to they go additional than anticipated, Chile and Peru may not be the one nations complaining.
Who doesn’t like a gap ceremony?
Each groups will search to disregard the razzmatazz and the strain of an enormous world viewers, with far more focus than regular on what would in any other case be a less-than-mouth-watering recreation for world spectators.
Even when they lose, Qatar will need to no less than keep away from humiliation and show that they’re worthy of a spot, given the torrent of criticism over governing physique FIFA’s awarding of the match to a nation that had by no means certified earlier than.
They can even be comfortable to be kicking a ball somewhat than coping with the controversies over their nation’s human rights file that reached a crescendo because the match arrived.
Ecuador, too, will probably be relieved simply to be strolling out after they confronted attainable expulsion over an accusation of fielding an ineligible participant.
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