By Efosa Taiwo
History will be made on Sunday when Qatar debut at the World Cup as they play host to Ecuador in the opening match of the 2022 edition of the Mundial.
Ranked 50th in the latest FIFA ranking, the Maroon of Qatar, on paper, are going into the tie the underdogs and look likely to tarnish the spotless record of host nations undefeated in the curtain raiser of the competition.
However, Qatar head coach, Felix Sanchez has warned football fans not to underrate his team.
Sanchez stressed that while they might not be favorites for the World title, teams facing them — including Ecuador — must be prepared for a tough challenge.
The Spaniard said: “Obviously, I’m not talking about Qatar winning the World Cup, but competing at a good level against those three teams is our challenge.
“Then this is football, and you never know what can happen.”
Gustavo Alfrado, Head Coach of Ecuador highlighted the prestige of the World Cup, adding that it is nothing compared to the qualifiers where the La Tri were impressive.
Conceding that his team might not be tipped to go far in the competition, Alfrado assured that regardless their presence will be felt in Qatar.
He said: “The World Cup is totally different from what the qualifiers are. If we are going to play the way we played the qualifiers, most likely we won’t have a chance, because we are going to play against the Asian champions, against the African champions and against the Netherlands, who are in the final four in Europe.
“They are teams that are superior to what we are, for a reason we were in pot number four in the draw, if we had been the best we would have been in pot one or two. We have to make things difficult, we have to be the pebble in their shoe.”
While this is the fourth encounter between both sides — with one win apiece and a draw in their three previous meetings — the fact that it is the opening match is enough to produce fireworks to spark the tournament to life.
Playing in front of their home fans should embolden Qatar to a valiant performance but against an experienced Ecuador side, victory tilts more towards the South Americans.