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‘Nightmare start’: Qatari press pans team for World Cup loss

Qatari media laid into a “weak” performance by the national team on Monday after the hosts’ much-heralded World Cup debut ended in a tame 2-0 defeat by Ecuador.

Any buzz from the opening ceremony soon fell flat as Qatar shipped two goals in the first half, with thousands of fans leaving Al Bayt Stadium well before the game had finished.

While Qatar’s press praised the opening ceremony, which included US actor Morgan Freeman and a severely disabled Qatari man, they were critical of coach Felix Sanchez’s team.

“The Maroons stumbled,” wrote Al Raya newspaper, adding: “Our players didn’t perform as needed.” Al Watan said: “Our national team skipped the opening.”

“Our national team paid the price for its weak start,” Al Watan added.

“Our team was not at their best, even not their usual (standard),” it said. “It seems that the weight of responsibility and the pressure of the World Cup and the opening were an obstacle to the performance of all players.”

It was a grim evening for Qatar’s team, the Asian champions who had been preparing for their big moment for years, backed by no-expense-spared facilities and coaching.

Ecuador had a goal disallowed for a barely visible offside before Enner Valencia scored a penalty and then a sublime header. Qatar barely threatened at the other end, finishing with zero shots on target.

“It was always going to be a tall order for Qatar but the manner in which they crumbled against Ecuador would have disappointed the home fans,” said the Gulf Times, an English-language daily.

“Ecuador -– 44th in the FIFA rankings -– are only six places above Qatar, but last night they showed they are miles ahead of the Asian champions.”

The Qatar Tribune praised the “extraordinary” opening ceremony but lambasted a “nightmare start” by the team, highlighting the “nervousness” of goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb.

Al Sharq said fans walked out “because they couldn’t bear seeing the loss”. 

But it added: “Fans should support the team in the next game against Senegal until the last moment.”

The Peninsula said Qatar, the first hosts to lose their World Cup opener, face a “daunting task” in qualifying from Group A, with games to come against Senegal and the Netherlands.

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