For Qatar, this was a letdown 12 years in the making. The host nation has spent that time building the infrastructure of a World Cup shrouded in controversy and replete with a bitter taste that, whatever the next four weeks bring, is unlikely ever to be washed away. But when they kicked this tournament off the hope locally was for a bravura show from the meticulously constructed football project that has run concurrently with the creation of a manicured, deeply unsettling fantasy sporting land from sand. Instead the national team flopped, left for dust by a stronger and cannier Ecuador unit who dealt the hardest of truths about how life at this level really looks.
The manoeuvres honed by Félix Sánchez’s players over their time together were barely evident and it was doubly ignominious for Qatar that they became the first home side ever to lose an opening game. In truth no other outcome seemed likely after the moment, three minutes in, when Enner Valencia thought he had twisted the narrative with a close-range header. The goal was eventually disallowed bv VAR for the most borderline of offsides but Qatar’s backline, and especially their goalkeeper Saad al-Sheeb, already looked ripe to be picked off.