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World Cup Thoughts – Day One
Qatar vs Ecuador
I’ve been looking around for charities to donate to during this World Cup that are specifically led by people from Qatar or countries contributing a lot of migrant workers. One such group I’ve seen is the Alwan Foundation. Founded by Dr. Nas Mohamed, described as the only Qatari to publicly come out as gay, the foundation has set up the “Proud Maroons” group, described as “the only LGBTQ+ National Football Supporters’ Group that can’t have fans from its own nation because homosexuality is currently illegal in Qatar”. The Alwan Foundation “aims to help local LGBTQ+ Qataris through support, advocacy, and research—areas that are currently nonexistent.”
You can donate here. I’ve donated £100 and I hope some of you do the same. I am definitely looking for a charity that helps migrant workers, so please inform me if you know of one you could recommend.
And we’re off.
This is the first of these shorter reaction articles I’m going to for every game at the World Cup, and the first game was always going to be a strange one for the reasons you already know. Even if I wanted to “stick to sports” here, there was so little actual football that it would be impossible to fill an email. I can’t speak for any other countries, but the British coverage of the game on BBC One at least didn’t ignore the elephant in the room. They skipped the opening ceremony entirely and went straight into talking about the issues at play. I don’t think they did a perfect job, and I did raise some eyebrows at the choice to avoid discussing Britain’s role in shaping the modern state of Qatar at all.
When the football itself got started, it wasn’t exactly worth waiting for. Ecuador scored twice in the first half (along with a very tight goal ruled out for offside), without having to work very hard for it. Qatar had just one touch in the opposition box (that should’ve been offside) in the first half, but Ecuador didn’t offer that much more. They easily dominated possession and found themselves camped in Qatar’s half without breaking a sweat, but produced all of two open play shots in that first half, worth around 0.45 xG. You could probably argue that, had Enner Valencia not scored after 15 minutes, Ecuador would have kept attacking and creating chances. But it made for a dreadful spectacle.
Once Ecuador scored their first two decent chances of the game, both sides would’ve probably been happy for the referee to blow for full time. I don’t want this to sound like Qatar defended well, because they really didn’t. But the story of the game was that Ecuador did the bare minimum to get the three points early, then contributed pretty much nothing to the spectacle.
Valencia showed everyone that he still potentially has something to offer at age 33. One of my favourite sights in a World Cup is seeing these sorts of players step up and deliver after fading to obscurity in the European club game. Valencia showed some promise as a younger player in Liga MX, but offered very little in his three years in the Premier League before returning to Mexico and then eventually to Turkey. A lot of you probably forgot he existed, but players like that can suddenly step it up a gear at the World Cup. Granted, this was Qatar we’re talking about. Any Turkish Süper Lig striker would’ve fancied their chances against this team.
Well, hopefully tomorrow’s games will be better. I’ll see you all then.