World Cup opens with host country Qatar facing Ecuador over host nation Qatar face Ecuador on June 14
The opening match at the FIFA World Cup in Russia on Friday was the first between the World Cup hosts, Qatar and Ecuador.
The two teams met at the Luzhniki in Moscow in October 2014, when Qatar beat Ecuador 2-0 in a surprise result at a tournament deemed friendly.
The 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey was the first time the two teams played two games in a World Cup and ended in a 1-1 draw.
A decade later, in the World Cup opener in 2015 Qatari national team coach Abdulla Al Hashemi said the two teams would “meet this year in Russia. I have not made any secret of my wish.”
He was referring to that hope being fulfilled as Ecuador’s team bus pulled out from the airport in Doha, on Tuesday, and headed on an 18-hour trip to Moscow to take part in the opening games of the Russia 2015.
There was a sense of anticipation on the streets of Doha as the team made its way to the stadium.
The teams had yet to meet in a World Cup game. After a draw in last-16 round of last-16 group matches, both teams had been given a 1-1 home-and-away series.
Both had been beaten out by the hosts, though the final match was to be played by the two teams who had drawn their previous encounters in the same tournament, Brazil and Argentina.
In all, the Ecuadorian team will play against South American rivals on Friday, Colombia on Saturday and Uruguay on Sunday.
That means Ecuador will have four games, including the final-16 group stage match against World Cup hosts on June 30.
In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Ecuadorian Football Federation official Jose Alsogaray said there was no pressure on Ecuador in beating the team ranked second in the world.
“We’re happy to play this game with Qatar, and we don’t have any pressure,” he said.