The 2022 World Cup began with a breathless 30 minutes as ex-Everton and West Ham forward Enner Valencia took centre stage during Ecuador’s 2-0 victory over Qatar.
Host nation Qatar, with no previous World Cup pedigree, were given a baptism of fire as Ecuador sprinted out of the blocks.
With less than five minutes on the clock, captain Valencia thought he gave the South Americans an early lead after some questionable defending by the Middle Eastern minnows – and even more alarming goalkeeping by Saad Al Sheeb.
However, VAR intervened to save Qatar’s blushes, as an Ecuador player’s knee was marginally offside.
The decision initially caused confusion as the player was not totally visible to TV cameras and the goalkeeper was acting as the second-last defender.
It did not matter much, in the end, as Valencia put Ecuador in front moments later.
The former Premier League forward was taken down by Al Sheeb inside the box and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way to convert the resulting penalty inside 15 minutes.
Speaking on commentary for talkSPORT, ex-striker Dean Ashton said: “You can tell he’s experienced, you can tell he’s played in a World Cup before because that was a really cool penalty… they deserve it, Ecuador.
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“It’s been an excellent start to the game, the energy Ecuador have shown has been great. They press really well.”
Valencia became Ecuador’s highest-ever World Cup goalscorer – and he wasn’t done yet.
The 33-year-old doubled his country’s lead with an outrageous header on 30 minutes.
Ashton added: “The cross was just gorgeous but the header from Valencia was clinical, it left the goalkeeper with absolutely no chance.”
talkSPORT World Cup 2022 Coverage
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