Host Country Stumbles as World Cup Play Begins

Crowd control issues persist in Qatar
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 20, 2022 4:50 PM CST
At World Cup, Qatar Has a Rough Opening Day
Ecuador's Enner Valencia falls, fouled by Qatar's goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb, on Sunday in the World Cup.   (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

In a seven-act World Cup opening ceremony on Sunday, actor Morgan Freeman extended one yellow-gloved hand to a FIFA ambassador suffering from a rare spinal disorder in an image meant to represent inclusion in a country facing international criticism over its human rights record. That wasn't the biggest moment of the ceremony ahead of the first match between host country Qatar and Ecuador, the AP reports. The largest cheers were reserved for the Mideast and African leaders watching from their luxury suites in Bedouin tent-inspired Al Bayt Stadium. It didn't all go smoothly. Even as Qatar was losing 2-0, the fan zone in central Doha became a chaotic scene as tens of thousands of fans were pushed against police lines. Fans were trying to access the enclosed area that contained big screens for viewing matches and to buy beer. The day included:

  • Game 1: In its first World Cup appearance, Qatar became the first host country to lose its opening game in the tournament's 92 years, per the AP. Ecuador's captain, Enner Valencia, scored both goals in the first half. He had another one early, but that goal was disallowed after five minutes of video review, on an offside that was a close call. By the second half, many seats were empty. Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said he felt bad for his team's fans. "I hope in the next game they will be prouder," he said.
  • Stars are out: Two of the best players in the world were ruled out of the tournament with injuries before it even began. France striker Karim Benzema hurt his left thigh during training on Saturday. Senegal forward Sadio Mane, runner-up to Benzema in voting for world player of the year, will sit out with a leg injury he suffered last week while playing for Bayern Munich.
  • The American game: The US returns to the World Cup after missing the 2018 tournament in Russia and opens play on Monday against Gareth Bale-led Wales. Bale has been playing for Los Angeles FC and helped that team win the MLS Cup earlier this month. The US has one of the youngest squads in the 32-team tournament. Three of the Americans—Gio Reyna, Joe Scally, and Yusuf Musah—were only 11 years old the last time the national team played a World Cup match.
  • The money: Awarding the World Cup to Qatar has been a financial boon to FIFA. Soccer's governing body of soccer said it collected record revenue of $7.5 billion in the four years of commercial deals tied to the 2022 tournament. That's $1 billion more than income from the previous commercial cycle of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The extra money this year was boosted by local sponsorship deals, including Qatar Energy, which joined as a top-tier sponsor. Qatari bank QNB and telecoms firm Ooredoo are also sponsors. Representing the US in sponsorship packages is
(More 2022 World Cup stories.)

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