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World Cup 2022: Dismay for Qatar as Ecuador wins opening game

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The moment Qatar had been waiting nearly 12 years for arrived—and it didn’t go at all how the country and its national team had envisioned.

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

The night started with more than 67,000 mostly Qatari fans filling the cavernous Al Bayt Stadium, enjoying an opening ceremony that showcased the tiny Arab emirate to a global audience 12 years after winning the right to host soccer’s biggest event.

It ended with Qatar’s overmatched team trudging off the field, its unwanted place in soccer history secure and with many of its dismayed fans having long disappeared.

The controversy-laced tournament opened Sunday with the 2019 Asian Cup champions getting outplayed in a 2-0 loss to Ecuador, ensuring a host team lost its opening game for the first time at a World Cup.

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

Ecuador captain Enner Valencia scored both of his team's goals in the first half of a one-sided game that wound up being a damage-limitation exercise for Qatar on one of the biggest nights in the nation’s history.

The match took place after a colorful 30-minute opening ceremony — fronted by Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman and attended by powerful dignitaries including Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — that promoted inclusivity and mankind living “under one tent.”

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