So here we are.
After weeks, months – indeed years – of build-up, controversy and a summer bereft of a major men’s tournament, the 22nd World Cup has finally arrived in Qatar.
Sunday sees the opening game of the competition as the hosts take part in the traditional curtain-raiser against Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium, Al Kohr.
Many will scoff at Qatar’s chances in their first World Cup appearance, but disputes aside, the Arab nation have vastly improved since their international debut some 52 years ago. Beating both South Korea and Japan en-route to the Asian Cup in 2019, on home soil here, The Maroon will be no pushovers.
Nevertheless, with Group A containing both AFCON winners Senegal and an evolving Holland – both potential dark horses themselves – a win here is surely a must for any hopes of making it to the last 16.
It is Ecuador, however, who are regarded as favourites to deflate the early bubble of optimism for Qatar and to win at 16/11 with VBet. The hosts’ last win came back in August against fellow World Cup participants Ghana but two wins and two defeats have since followed. Nevertheless, A Qatari win would set up the tournament nicely and a 13/5 price with UniBet.
In the case of their opposition, having avoided calls to be banned from competing in this year’s tournament for fielding an ineligible player, in their fifth World Cup appearance, La Tricolor are made up chiefly of players from MLS and Liga MX. The South American outfit’s main concern will be finding the net despite boasting a decent attack. Indeed, Ecuador have failed to score more than a single goal in all of their last nine games. Backing under 1.5 goals at 9/5 with LiveScoreBet, therefore could make sense.
It could be even tighter though and for those punters brave enough, a goalless draw will stack up to 7/1 with William Hill, however with that said, in the three previous meetings between these two sides, all games have seen at least two goals scored, with a 4-3 encounter played out in Doha four years ago.
As we noted, this game could be quite a feisty affair with a fair amount riding on it, not least with the Ecuadorians involved. Indeed, In their last five World Cup CONMEBOL qualifiers, Gustavo Alfaro’s men have been shown three yellow cards. For just one further card in the game at over 3.5 cards, an evens punt, again with LiveScoreBet should go close. For a red card to be shown meanwhile, a 7/2 punt with PaddyPower and Betfair is also on the table.
For the goalscorer punters out there, Qatar’s main man in attack is Akram Afif. Netting twice in the FIFA Arab Cup 12 months ago, the Al Sadd converted winger more recently also netted against Chile and Ghana and with penalty duties also, a 4/1 shot with BetUK for Afif to score in the opener may appeal.