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Qatar World Cup 2022 Day 1: Historic day for Arab football as tournament kicks off
One of the world’s most-watched sporting events began Sunday as Qatar hosts the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
It is the first time the football tournament has been hosted in the Arab world.
A 30-minute opening ceremony began at 5:30pm local time (2:30pm GMT) at the Al Bayt Stadium, which is located roughly 30 miles from the Qatari capital Doha.
The ceremony featured international artists including Jung Kook from Korean pop band BTS, and American actor Morgan Freeman, as well as Qatari artists.
Al Bayt was also the venue for the first match of the tournament, Qatar v Ecuador, in which saw the host country lose 2-0.
Full time: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
A much quieter second half means the opening match of the World Cup has ended with a two-goal defeat for Qatar.
Qualification for the round of 16 now looks like a hard ask for The Maroons, who will face Senegal on Friday and the Netherlands on 29 November.
Half-time: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
An eventful first half comes to an end at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Enner Valencia has scored three times - but his first goal less than three minutes into the match was disallowed after a VAR check.
The Ecuadorian scored a penalty 16 minutes in, then netted a header 15 minutes later.
He had an injury scare close to the end of the half and was taken off the pitch - but he hobbled back on seconds later.
A tetchy Qatar side have gotten three yellow cards - for Karim Boudiaf, Almoez Ali, and goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.
It looked in the last minute of the half as though Ali could halve Ecuador’s lead, but he headed the ball wide of goal.
Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
Enner Valencia scores a second goal for Ecuador with a header, 31 minutes in.
Valencia had headed the ball into the net three minutes into the game, but his goal was disallowed after a VAR check.
Qatar 0-1 Ecuador
Enner Valencia nets a penalty for Ecuador 16 minutes into the match.
Ecuador were given the penalty after Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb grabbed the Ecuadorian's shin as he advanced towards the Qatari net.
Al Sheeb was given a yellow card for the foul.
Qatar v Ecuador: Early Ecuador goal disallowed
Referees have disallowed a goal scored by Ecuador early in their match against Qatar.
Ecuador's Enner Valencia headed the ball into the goal after the South American side won a free kick less than three minutes into the match.
However, the goal was disallowed after a VAR check - though the reason for the decision remains unclear.
The score remains Qatar 0-0 Ecuador.
Saudi crown prince MbS sits front and centre at World Cup opening ceremony
Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman sat almost centre stage at the World Cup opening ceremony, in a sign that tensions between Riyadh and Doha are continuing to thaw.
MbS arrived in Qatar on Sunday morning for the ceremony, which took place at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, some 30 miles from the Qatari capital Doha.
Four years ago, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting extremists and being too close to arch-rival Iran – claims Qatar rejected.
The four countries agreed to lift the restrictions at a Gulf Cooperation Council summit in January 2021 in the Saudi city of Al-Ula.
Qatar team arrives at Al Bayt stadium for opening match
The Qatari national football team has arrived at the Al Bayt stadium ahead of their match against Ecuador later today.
Meanwhile, the stadium has filled with fans for the opening ceremony and the Qatar v Ecuador match, the first in the tournament.
Qataris, foreign fans show support for Palestine at Lusail City
Scores of Qataris and fans from abroad showed their support for Palestine in a carnival-like atmosphere at Qatar’s Lusail City on Saturday.
The event, in which participants waved Palestinian flags, danced dabke and donned keffiyehs, was organised by the Qatar Youth Against Normalisation group.
Videos of the fans singing and dancing together in the city - most of which has been constructed in the last 15 years - were shared on social media under the hashtag #raisepalestineflag.
It came hours after Qatari Assistant Foreign Minister Lulwah Al-Khater expressed solidarity with the Palestinians at a press conference on the eve of the tournament.
"We expect to celebrate [the World Cup] with thousands of our brothers and sisters from Palestine and we affirm here that their cause and our just cause in Palestine will always remain present in our conscience," she said.
Though Qatar does not share any official ties with Israel, the first direct commercial flight between Israel and Doha took off Sunday, after the World Cup hosts approved the flights for tournament ticket holders.
Read more on this story here.
Qatar v Ecuador - could The Maroon score an upset?
World Cup host nation Qatar will play Ecuador on Sunday in the first match of the tournament.
Qatar, ranked 50th in the world by FIFA, are definitely among the tournament’s underdogs.
But they sit only six places below Ecuador in the official rankings, and may be spurred on by the home advantage for Sunday’s game.
Under the leadership of Spaniard coach Felix Sanchez, the team have shown their tournament mettle in recent years, winning the 2019 Asian Cup. Brazil legend Cafu has said that they may even make it to the World Cup quarter-finals.
Ecuador have been touted as a potential surprise package for the World Cup - but have faced off-pitch controversy before the tournament has even begun.
The South American team allegedly used false information to grant a player an Ecuadorian passport.
Though the team have kept their place at the tournament, they will be deducted three points before the start of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup.
Ecuador and Qatar will play at the Al Bayt Stadium at 7pm local time (4pm GMT). Their Group A counterparts, the Netherlands and Senegal, will play Sunday.
In their previous three encounters, Ecuador and Qatar have won one match apiece and drew once.
World Cup opening ceremony will be 'full of surprises', says FIFA
As world leaders fly in for the opening ceremony of the 2022 World Cup, FIFA on Saturday promised us an opening ceremony "full of surprises".
The ceremony will take place at the Al Bayt stadium, whose design was inspired by a Bedouin tent.
The seven-act, 30-minute show "will be led by world class talents that interlace Qatari tradition with worldwide culture", the football governing body said.
While performances by the likes of BTS star Jung Kook have been confirmed, rumours have swirled that other famed musicians will be taking part.
Benzema out of tournament in blow to defending champions France
In bad news for fans of the beautiful game worldwide, Karim Benzema will not be playing for World Cup defending champions France due to injury.
The 34-year-old striker, who is of Algerian descent, has been struggling with an injury to his left thigh for some time.
"Never in my life have I given up, but tonight I have to think about the team as I have always done," he said Saturday night via Twitter.
"Reason tells me to give up my place for someone who can help our group have a good World Cup."
On Saturday, Benzema took part in full training for the first time since the World Cup holders gathered last week ahead of the tournament - but he was forced to withdraw from the session with the injury and was taken for tests.
The loss of Benzema is yet another major blow to the French team, who have already lost midfield stars Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kanté to injury.
Read more on this story here.