It's been 12 long years since Qatar was confirmed as the host of this year's World Cup but the wait is nearly over as the home nation gets set to face Ecuador on Sunday.
This article was originally published on 19 November 2022
The Maroons will become the 80th different nation to take part in a World Cup when they bring the curtain up on this edition of football's global showpiece at the Al Bayt Stadium and history is on the side of the home team when weighing up who comes out on top.
In the previous 21 World Cups, no host nation has lost their opening game and Qatar are 11/5 to get the party started with a victory on what head coach Felix Sanchez believes will be a "momentous day" for the country.
However, Qatar are arguably the weakest home team to ever be involved in a World Cup and recent results don't inspire huge confidence they can topple an Ecuador side flying under the radar after some strong performances in recent year.
Qatar's football history before being awarded the World Cup was brief and unremarkable having never got close to qualifying for the tournament previously.
They've worked hard to gain some tournament experience since being awarded the event though, producing runs to the semi-finals of the Gulf Cup of Nations in 2019 and the Gold Cup in 2021.
Their biggest success though was winning the Asian Cup in 2019, toppling South Korea and Japan to clinch the title and giving hope to them being a competitive entity in this World Cup.
However, Qatar have been found wanting at times, collecting one point from three games when invited to the 2019 Copa America, while they were soundly beaten 3-0 by Croatia's Under-23s in September.
They followed that loss to Croatia with a 2-0 defeat to Canada but have since strung together a five-match unbeaten run featuring wins over Honduras and Albania.
Whether those friendly results will adequately prepare the third-lowest ranked side in the competition for what is to come in a tough group remains to be seen with Qatar's squad unaccustomed to elite-level football.
Sanchez has selected a squad made up entirely of players from the domestic Qatar Stars League with record goalscorer Almoez Ali the poster boy of the side.
The 26-year-old is Qatar's joint-record goalscorer having netted a respectable 42 goals in 85 appearances, including scoring in the Middle Eastern nation's last three outings.
He faces a formidable opponent on Sunday though in a well-drilled Ecuador defence playing in front of a goalkeeper in Alexander Domínguez that's kept six consecutive clean sheets.
Domínguez played a big part in Ecuador holding South American heavyweights Argentina and Brazil to vital draws during a successful qualifying campaign.
La Tri secured automatic qualification for a fourth World Cup by finishing fourth in the CONMEBOL standings, an achievement in itself for a nation with a modest footballing history, but this team aren't ready to rest on their laurels.
With Senegal now missing star man Sadio Mane, there's an opportunity for Ecuador to qualify for the last 16 for only the second time in their history at 1/1 and they've been tipped as dark horses for the tournament by Brazil coach Tite.
Gustavo Alfaro has brought a nice balance to the side since replacing Jordi Cruyff as head coach, making them tough to beat without losing their attacking edge.
Only Brazil scored more goals than Ecuador in qualifying and their top striker Enner Valencia arrives in Qatar in great form having netted a league-best 13 goals for Turkish side Fenerbahce this season.
There's a good sprinkling of players plying their trade in Europe's top leagues amongst the squad too, including Brighton trio Pervis Estupinan, Moises Caicedo and Jeremy Sarmiento, and they'll pose a serious test to seasoned campaigners Senegal and the Netherlands in Group A, let alone debutants Qatar.
With harder games to come against the Dutch and Senegalese, a positive result is vital for both Qatar and Ecuador if they want to have a chance of making the knockout stage.
Qatar have worked hard to get ready for this date but they may still be underprepared for what is to come with Ecuador's superior quality likely to help them make tournament history by being the first team to beat a host nation in a World Cup opener at .