Controversial hosts Qatar to win WC 2022 opener

After what feels like an eternity, the 2022 FIFA World Cup finally gets underway in the doubly unfamiliar surroundings of Qatar whilst it's coming up to winter in the northern hemisphere. Plenty has been written about the hosts, but the current Asian Cup holders will be hoping that the curtain raiser against South American side Ecuador will be remembered for purely footballing reasons. The Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor hosts the opener on Sunday after the traditional festivities have finished. Read our preview here:

The Ali A show

Head coach Félix Sánchez has the hopes of the small Gulf nation squarely on his shoulders to prove that their first major tournament trophy three years ago in neighbouring UAE was merely the first step on a road to greater on field prominence for The Maroon. He will set his stall out in a 4-4-2 without the ball, with the wider midfielders asked to get up in support of front pair Almoez Ali and Akram Afif with the opposition certain to adopt a safety first approach. The duo have crashed in 68 goals between them for the national side, and much will depend on their combined ability to penetrate the backline to help enable a famous win.

Im-Pervis to attack

After Gustavo Alfaro's side avoided the ultimate punishment that CAS could've meted out over the registration of Colombian-born Byron Castillo (instead receiving both a fine and a three-point deduction in qualification for the 2026 showpiece in North America), they too will want to move and let their ability on the pitch do the talking. Their shape will match their adversaries with an even more cautious stance without the ball employed. Left-back Pervis Estupiñán has had a decent start to the campaign with Brighton & Hove Albion, and his main task will be to cut off the drifting runs of Afif out onto his flank. Enner Valencia has had an Indian summer next to Belgium's Michy Batshauyi at Turkish giants Fenerbahçe, but they tend to have the ball far more than the other side in the Süper Lig, as well as more freedom to create chances.

Betting tip

Obviously, the hosts will be hoping to avoid being the first ever at a men's World Cup to lose the opener, but Casumo have odds of 3.30 for them to fare much better and win the match.

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