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Hosts Qatar beaten in World Cup opener

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The Middle Eastern nation became the first team ever to lose a World Cup opening match on home soil

Qatar suffered defeat against Ecuador in the first match of the FIFA 2022 World Cup, as two goals from Ecuadorian captain Enner Valencia condemned the Qataris to become the first hosts to lose the opening game of the tournament in its 92-year history.

After a controversial build-up which involved much of the Western media fixating on Qatar’s human rights record, the football finally began on Sunday at the 60,000-seater Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, just to the north of Doha.

Qatar almost got off to the worst possible start after just three minutes when they failed to clear their lines from a free-kick, allowing Ecuador captain Valencia to head in from close range.

But the goal was ruled out for offside after intervention from VAR, triggering the first moment of World Cup controversy on the pitch – even if analysis shared by FIFA showed the decision was correct because of a stray leg from Ecuador’s Michael Estrada.

Qatar were forced to soak up significant Ecuadorian pressure in the opening stages, ceding almost two-thirds of possession, and the South Americans did make the breakthrough in the 16th minute – again with Valencia at the heart of things.

The forward was brought down as he rounded hapless Qatari goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb, and Valencia picked himself up to coolly slot home the spot-kick for the first goal of the tournament.

The strike was a fourth World Cup goal for Valencia, adding to the three he scored at Brazil in 2014, and was the first time that the opening goal at a World Cup has come from the penalty spot.

Valencia did not have to wait long before adding to his tally, connecting with a well-placed header from a cross by Angelo Preciado to double Ecuador’s lead in the 31st minute.

Qatar’s Spanish manager Felix Sanchez looked on beleaguered from the sidelines as his team stared at unwanted World Cup history.

Qatar improved slightly as the first half wore on, managing a first shot and almost reducing the deficit in injury time when Almoez Ali headed wide with the goal at his mercy – although replays showed he would have been ruled offside.

Ecuador were largely content to play possession football at the start of the second half, but they drew a save from Al Sheeb in the Qatari goal when he pushed away an effort from Romario Ibarra.

There was a glimmer of attacking threat from Qatar after 62 minutes, when the Portuguese-born Pedro Miguel connected with a long ball into the Ecuador box, but his onwards header eluded teammate Ali.

Ecuador hero Valencia was replaced by Jhon Cifuente in the 76th minute after suffering an injury, but the Fenerbahce forward’s work was already done for his team.

Qatar substitute Mohammed Muntari spurned a golden late chance when played through with five minutes to spare, but lifted his effort over the Ecuador goal.

Ecuador cantered to a 2-0 victory in a game which will have caused significant concerns among the Qataris about just how much they can bring to their own party in footballing terms.

Source(s): RT News

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Van Gaal: Netherlands can go all the way in World Cup

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DOHA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal asked for improvement from his side but insisted they can also win the World Cup after beating the USA 3-1 in their last-16 game on Saturday.

The Netherlands became the first side to qualify for the quarterfinals with goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries, who was also voted Player of the Match after giving assists in the first two goals.

However, the ever-demanding coach insisted his players had to improve.

“I was very critical in my halftime analysis,” commented Van Gaal.

“In the first half, they (USA) dispossessed us so much, and that is not acceptable. You can’t accept that if you play top level teams. We did better in the second half, even though there were fewer goals.”

“They were great goals and really good team goals,” he explained, repeating his claim that the Netherlands can go all the way to the final in Qatar.

“Some top teams are out and we have three games ahead of us. We can become world champions. I don’t say we will become world champions, but we can be. It is about team building,” he said.

“This gives you confidence. The players are pleased and excited. We will look at the game again tomorrow and then we will roll up our sleeves and get back to work,” commented Van Gaal, who was pleased that other sides are not adapting to counter the Dutch wing-backs.

“I suppose the stronger the rival is the less likely they are to adjust to our system. I don’t think Spain, France or Argentina will adapt to the Netherlands, so I think we have a big chance here,” he concluded.

Meanwhile Dumfries was happy with the way the Dutch wing-backs had a role in all of their goals.

“In the first goal, you see everything from the system we play. We attack spaces and move the ball well. It was a great goal and that is how you see the core of our system,” Dumfries said.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Messi: We are one step closer to our objective

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DOHA, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) — Lionel Messi said Argentina had taken “one more step” toward their goal of World Cup glory by overcoming Australia in a dramatic round of 16 clash here on Saturday.

Messi sent Argentina on course for victory with a first-half strike, and Julian Alvarez doubled the lead before Craig Goodwin’s shot deflected in off Enzo Fernandez, ensuring a dramatic conclusion at Ahmad bin Ali stadium.

Messi’s goal, which came in his 1000th game for club and country, marked the first time he has scored in a World Cup knockout match.

“One more target has been reached. We are one step closer to our objective,” Messi told a news conference.

“It was a tough game, we knew it was going to be like that. We didn’t have much time to rest and we were worried about that. We knew it was going to be a tough game. They are physically very strong. We were able to get the advantage and then it got complicated. We suffered a bit at the end but it’s the World Cup. All games are difficult.”

Messi paid tribute to the tens of thousands of Argentine fans at the stadium, many of whom sang and chanted throughout the 90 minutes. Argentina’s players made a point of applauding them on the pitch after the final whistle.

“It was beautiful to be with them,” the 35-year-old forward said. “I think all of Argentina would like to be here, but obviously that can’t happen.

“We are always thrilled to play in front of these fans and it’s great to have their support every match, to feel their joy and passion.”

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Cameroon coach Song ‘proud’ after historic win over Brazil

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LUSAIL, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Cameroon manager Rigobert Song said he was proud of his players after a historic 1-0 victory over Brazil in their World Cup Group G match here on Friday.

A stoppage-time header from Vincent Aboubakar gave the Indomitable Lions the first ever win by an African team over Brazil at the World Cup.

But it wasn’t enough to earn Cameroon a place in the knockout stage in Qatar as they finished third in their group, behind Brazil and Switzerland.

“We have a feeling of regret because this match showed that we could have done better in the first two games,” said Song, referring to a 3-3 draw with Serbia and a 1-0 loss to Switzerland.

“But you have to look at the positive side. We’re satisfied with tonight’s performance. I took over the team not that long ago and we’re progressing.

“I’m proud of my players. We’re trying to get across the Lions’ spirt. We’ve shown that we can be a good team and now we have to make sure that we keep improving.”

He admitted he wasn’t initially aware of the magnitude of his team’s achievement.

“I didn’t even realize it was such a historic victory. My players should be congratulated and they’ve shown they could have done better [earlier in the tournament]. It’s a shame we have to go home now but we are going to keep working so that we improve.”

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