The controversy-laced tournament opened with the hosts outplayed and embarrassed in a 2-0 defeat to Ecuador in front of 67,372 fans at Al Bayt Stadium.
In 92 years of football’s biggest event, a host team had never lost their opening game.
Its national team, playing at this level for the first time by virtue of hosting the tournament, couldn’t live up to the moment as Ecuador captain Enner Valencia scored both goals in the first half.
The years-long scrutiny was never going to stop just because the football had begun, but a win for the host nation would have at least put a favourable light on the nation.
Instead, Qatar’s players, fresh from spending seven months together in a pre-tournament training camp under Spanish coach Felix Sanchez, froze in front of an expectant crowd and a disciplined Ecuador team that might just pose a danger to more high-profile opponents over the next few weeks.
Valencia thought he had scored in the third minute when he headed in from close range following an acrobatic cross from Felix Torres.
Ecuador did take the lead, however, in the 16th minute when Valencia was tripped by Saad Alsheeb after rounding the goalkeeper, who was booked for the challenge.