‘Tis the season for FIFA World Cup soccer. A field of 32 teams steps on the stage in Qatar for the first World Cup in the Middle East. This tournament takes place during the winter, rather than the typical summer window, due to the heat of the local climate. Games will also be played in the evening local time.
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From opening kick to lifting the FIFA World Cup trophy, here are live updates and the latest coverage from Qatar and around the world.
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Despite the spectacular stadiums, beautiful Doha waterfront, and the breathtaking Lusail skyline, there’s something off about this World Cup.
“If only it wasn’t all so gross,” columnist Nancy Armour wrote.
Twelve years after Qatar conveniently won the right to host, the first kick of the World Cup finally happened.
“We invested for the good of all humanity,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Qatar’s emir, said during the opening ceremony.
“Contrary to what FIFA president Gianni Infantino would have you believe, the criticism of the Qataris is not hypocrisy nor is it unjust,” Armour wrote. “The stadiums, the skyscrapers, this whole event has been paid for in blood.”
After their opening goal was controversially disallowed, Ecuador scored twice in the first half — a score that remained through the end of the Group A matchup. Captain Enner Valencia scored the brace as the only player on the field with previous World Cup experience. His penalty kick in the 16th minute gave Ecuador the lead and extended his World Cup scoring streak to five games. Ecuador dominated the play on the field and the energy in the stands.
The loss means Qatar is the first host nation to lose the opening game of the World Cup despite its billion-dollar investment, including an opening ceremony narrated by Morgan Freeman.
FIFA honors individual achievements during the tournament. Introduced in 1982, the Golden Ball is awarded to the World Cup’s best player, while the Golden Boot is given to the top scorer. And the Golden Gloves, introduced in 1994, go to the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
Here’s who USA TODAY Network reporters think will win the individual awards:
President Joe Biden, from his desk in the Oval Office, called USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter in a room filled with the entire team.
“I know you’re the underdog, but I tell you what man, you got some of the best players in the world on your team,” Biden said. “You’re representing this country and I know you’re going to play your hearts out, so let’s go shock them all.”
Biden is not traveling to Qatar for the World Cup, but his Secretary of State Antony Blinken will arrive in the country Monday to attend the USMNT’s opening game against Wales.
Contributing: Pro Soccer Wire
The large section of fans cheering on Ecuador have not let up. Meanwhile, the Qatari contingent has quieted since the excitement levels seen during the open ceremony, only peaking near the end of the first half when Almoez Ali’s chance went over the crossbar.
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With two goals from Valencia, Ecuador led host-nation Qatar at halftime. Qatar is 45 minutes away from becoming the first host to lose the opening game.
SCORE: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
The Ecuador captain scored his second goal of the game. Video review confirmed the tally. Valencia has scored in five consecutive World Cups for La Tri.
SCORE: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador
Ecuador’s Enner Valencia scored his 36th career goal, converting a penalty kick against Qatar in the 16th minute. Valencia earned the penalty after Qatar goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb tripped the forward, receiving a yellow card.
SCORE: Qatar 0-1 Ecuador
From a free kick hit into the 18-yard box, Ecuador’s Felix Torres acrobatically kicked the ball toward forward Enner Valencia. The all-time leading scorer for Ecuador headed the ball into the back of the net, but the referee ruled it offside after video review and disqualified the goal. It would have been the fastest score in World Cup history.
The offside rule has been a source of innumerable controversial calls in soccer.
FIFA only began allowing World Cup officials the ability to review video replays to confirm calls in 2018. This year it rolled out a new semi-automated, offside technology to enhance its Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system, which was used to rule Valencia’s first goal offside.
SCORE: Qatar 0-0 Ecuador
WHAT IS OFFSIDE IN SOCCER?:Explaining the rule so you’re prepared to watch the 2022 World Cup.
USA TODAY Sports provides a one-stop interactive destination for all your 2022 World Cup needs. You’ll find team schedules, television and streaming options, stories, videos, and the ability to build a personalized match schedule to follow your favorite teams.
Both teams are on the field for warmups. Ecuador fans went nuts when Ecuador was announced; They’re jumping up and down, waving flags and singing. Qatar winger Akram Afif clapped to the fans in the stands as he ran out. — Columnist Nancy Armour at Al Bayt in Qatar
Ecuador’s captain Enner Valencia gets a start. He scored three times in the 2014 World Cup and is the top goalscorer in Turkey’s Süper Lig.
Smaller than Connecticut, what Qatar lacks in size and might, it makes up for in money from oil and natural gas. Which came in handy when Qatari organizers were trying to convince FIFA members of their vision for the first World Cup in the Middle East, columnist Nancy Armour wrote.
Its government has been accused of a laundry list of human rights abuses, including the exploitation and deaths of migrant construction workers and oppression of women and the LGBTQ community.
Its choice as World Cup host was, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter said last week, “a mistake.”
Current president Gianni Infantino held an “airing of grievances” Saturday, “taking aim in a deluded, hypocritical and factually ignorant screed at all those who have criticized soccer’s governing body for putting the World Cup in Qatar,” Armour wrote.
The tournament began with a first-of-its-kind opening ceremony reminiscent of the Olympics, featuring American actor Morgan Freeman.
Creative director Marco Balich, a veteran of multiple Olympic opening and closing ceremonies, told The Associated Press that he has been working for a year on a 30-minute show.
“The supreme committee wanted to create a real show, which FIFA is not accustomed to,” Balich said in a phone interview from Doha, referring to Qatar’s local organizing committee.
The extravagant ceremony was one of the reasons why in August the World Cup start was moved up a day in a late switch — to give the show a more prominent viewing slot.
Contributing: Associated Press
Alcoholic beer will no longer be sold at or around the World Cup stadiums in Qatar in a stunning about-face only days before the tournament began.
FIFA and Qatari officials had initially compromised on beer sales, deciding alcoholic beer would be sold only within the stadium perimeter before and after games and not within the stadium itself – similar to how fans can tailgate outside some college stadiums but not purchase beer once they go inside. Non-alcoholic beer was to be sold, and still will be sold, on the stadium concourses.
That is no longer the case.
USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour is in Qatar at Al Bayt Stadium for Qatar vs. Ecuador.
“Roughly two hours before kickoff, and the Ecuador fans are already in raucous form,” Armour said. “There’s a large group behind one of the goals and they’re singing, chanting and waving flags.”
Meanwhile, big cheer went up in the stadium when jumbotrons showed the Qatari team getting off the bus.
U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter named midfielder Tyler Adams as his captain throughout the World Cup. Adams, 23, is the youngest player to captain the USMNT at a World Cup since 1950. He has worn the armband nine times out of his 32 caps.
“We’re proud to announce Tyler as the captain for the World Cup. We think he has great leadership capabilities,” Berhalter said at a press conference Sunday. “He leads by his actions and his words, so we’re proud to have him as a captain.”
Contributing: Pro Soccer Wire
Reigning champion France will attempt to do something only Italy and Brazil have done before — win back-to-back FIFA men’s World Cup trophies. But the path to victory won’t be easy, star midfielders Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante will miss the tournament due to injury. Ballon d’Or winner and French forward Karim Benzema, 34, injured his leg in training this week and will also miss the remainder of the tournament.
Here’s who USA TODAY Network reporters think will come out champions (disclaimer: picks made before the news of Benzema’s injury):
Time: Sunday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. ET
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar
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Qatar continues the tradition of host nations kicking off the tournament when they face Group A opponent Ecuador. In nearly a century of World Cup opening games, eight hosts have played in the first game — and none have lost. Outmatched on paper, Qatar is playing in its first-ever World Cup.
While Qatar automatically qualified for the tournament by way of being host, Ecuador won games against South American powerhouse teams Colombia and Uruguay during the qualifying process.