The first-ever World Cup in the Middle East is finally upon us, and we’ve had plenty to talk about in the first week of the tournament.
There was so much to enjoy during the opening week of the World Cup in Qatar. All eight beautiful stadiums were used for the first time. We’ve seen a number of the world’s best players on the pitch. We saw wonderful goals, shock results and a brilliant opening ceremony.
Ecuador cruise to victory on opening day
The opening game of the World Cup started in spectacular fashion as we were treated to a fantastic opening ceremony steeped in Qatari traditions and culture. Hollywood star Morgan Freeman co-hosted the show with local YouTuber Ghanim Al Muftaha. There was an excellent section paying tribute to previous editions of the tournament, which featured all of the World Cup mascots. Korean pop star sensation Jungkook also performed his official World Cup song “Dreamers”.
With the ceremony over, the wait was over and we witnessed history being made with the first game of the 2022 World Cup. Hosts Qatar met South American challengers in Ecuador. There was drama early on as VAR scored a goal for Ecuador in the first three minutes while defender Michael Estrada was flagged for offside in the lead up.
They didn’t have to wait long to score a legitimate goal. A penalty was awarded when striker Enner Valencia pushed the ball around Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb and was fouled while trying to tap the ball. Valencia wiped off and saved the penalty to make it 1-0. He was the scorer again after half an hour when he found a cross from Angelo Preciado. The 2-0 proved too high for Qatar to climb and Ecuador easily finished the rest of the game.
England starts with a big win
Gareth Southgate’s England side started their season with an impressive 6-2 win over Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium. Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka were the stars of the Three Lions as they attempted to improve on their 2018 semi-final.
Unfortunately, England captain and top striker Harry Kane suffered a blow. The extent of the injury to his right ankle is still unknown. However, his involvement in the rest of this tournament will be crucial to the team’s success as the games progress.
Wales’ big return
Elsewhere in Group B, Wales made a historic return to the World Cup with their opening game against USA at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium.
Rob Page’s side struggled in the first half and were down 1-0 at half-time thanks to a Timothy Weah goal. But a substitution for Wales at the break changed the game and tipped things back in their favor. Striker Kieffer Moore made a big difference by regaining control of the game but it was star Gareth Bale who won a penalty and a chance to equalize with 10 minutes remaining.
Bale has won countless trophies at club level and is no stranger to scoring in big games. He stood up for his country and buried the penalty that gave them a valuable point in the opening game. Their next game will be against Iran before a crucial game against British neighbors England on November 29th.
Saudis shock Messi’s Argentina
In the biggest shock of the week, Saudi Arabia achieved an amazing result in the opening match against Argentina at the Lusail Stadium.
The Argentines went into the game with a 36-game unbeaten streak over three years. It looked like that run would continue as Leandro Paredes was wrestled onto the turf on a free kick. Lionel Messi, who had his eyes on the trophy that alluded to his long and illustrious career, pocketed the penalty to put Argentina ahead.
However, Saudi Arabia remained competitive. They regrouped at halftime and took the game to their opponents in the second half. Within 8 minutes of the restart they turned the game around and led 2-1. From there, they watched the game impeccably and dealt a massive blow to Argentina, a favorite of the tournament.
Reigning champions are on their way
Finally, world champions France got their title defense underway with a 4-1 win over Australia at the Al Janoub Stadium.
The French were a goal down after nine minutes but didn’t panic and worked their way back into the game with ease. It was a historic night for Olivier Giroud, who has leveled with Thierry Henry as France’s all-time leading goalscorer. The AC Milan striker has scored twice and is keen to go on and break that record in the coming weeks as France continue their quest for back-to-back World Cups.
The coming week will be crucial for many teams. Can Qatar bounce back from their opening defeat and find their way to the knockout rounds? Can Saudi Arabia continue to shock the big teams and make it out of their group? There is absolutely everything left to play for all 32 nations.