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Qatar v Ecuador preview: Hosts hoping to light up World Cup on day one

The wait is almost over as hosts Qatar prepare to raise the curtain at the World Cup with their opening Group A clash against Ecuador.

Sunday's first game of the tournament is the first of 64 matches set to take place over 29 days with 32 teams set to feature at the showpiece international event.

Brazil, available at 7/2 to win the World Cup, lead the market and their South American rivals Argentina are next at 11/2.

Defending champions France, who can be backed at 7/1, top the bill from the European contingent with England priced at 8/1 to lift the trophy for the first time since 1966.

Hosts Qatar, making their first-ever appearance at a World Cup, are 250/1 to cause a major shock and win the tournament, while Ecuador can be backed at 150/1.

There's a feast of football on the horizon and Sunday's clash is just the appetizer with the schedule set to ramp up.

What: Qatar v Ecuador
Where: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
When: 16:00, Sunday 20th November
How to watch: BBC
Odds: Qatar 11/5, Draw 21/10, Ecuador 7/5

Hosts hoping to lay down marker

Originally, the opening game of a World Cup saw the defending champions feature but that all changed in 2006 when the previous winner wasn't automatically granted a place in the competition.

Germany were hosts in 2006 and they kicked off the tournament with a 4-2 win over Costa Rica before going on to lose in the semi-finals.

Few expect Qatar to get that far but they will be hopeful of making a positive start to the 2022 edition when they square off against Ecuador at 16:00 on Sunday.

Qatar were named as hosts of the World Cup in December 2010 when they were 113 in the FIFA rankings - their lowest ever standing - but they've worked hard in the intervening 12 years and currently sit 50th.

Despite not being involved in the qualification process, Qatar have travelled the world to earn experience and develop.

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They are unbeaten in five games, winning each of their last four, and have kept three clean sheets during that sequence.

Head coach Felix Sanchez has been in charge since 2017, having previously spent time with the nation's under-23 and under-19 sides.

The Spaniard isn't blessed with any household names - all 26 members of his squad play their domestic football in Qatar - but they'll be hoping to make full use of home advantage.

La Tri lacking form

Ecuador are the 7/5 favourites to win Sunday's clash against 11/5 Qatar and the draw can be backed at 21/10.

But their recent form doesn't offer a huge amount of reason to get behind them after winning just one of their last five and twice in their last 11.

They've drawn each of their last three outings 0-0 and have failed to score in four of their previous five fixtures ahead of the World Cup.

One thing that does count in Ecuador's favour is experience, having appeared at the World Cup on three occasions.

La Tricolor exited at the group stage during their debut campaign in 2002 but they made it through to the last-16 stage four years later, however, they failed to get out of their section once again in 2014.

A spot in the knockout phase certainly isn't beyond Ecuador during this campaign with the fight for second place expected to be wide open.

The Netherlands are heavily expected to top the section but Ecuador, Senegal and Qatar will all be hopeful of following the European nation through to the next stage.

Ali carrying Qatar's hopes

Qatar have employed a defence-first approach in the build up to the World Cup and head coach Sanchez is unlikely to abandon that philosophy.

A five-man backline is likely to be deployed with 130-cap international Abdelkarim Hassan trusted to orchestrate.

Skipper Hassan Al-Haydos is set to make his 170th appearance for Qatar from midfield but the focus will on front man Almoez Ali.

Ali is the joint-leading scorer for his country with 42 goals and the nation will be hoping he can deliver to boost their hopes.

The 26-year-old, who plays his domestic football with Al-Duhail, is 10/3 to score anytime and can be backed at 7/1 to score first.

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