FIFA World Cup 2022 is upon us and only a brave soul picked Qatar to beat Ecuador in the first leg

Today is the day! Of course, it’s the middle of winter. And yes, just yesterday the main story of this World Cup was off the pitch as Gianni Infantino had one of the most totally weird press conferences you will ever see. But the reality is that — for better or worse — once the games start, they tend to take center stage. So check out some fireworks, listen to someone from BTS called Jung Kook (I’m told he’s very famous) sing the FIFA song and then let’s go to some matches. I’m Mike Goodman — this is the Golazo starting lineup — and it’s finally time to talk about some World Cup games.

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⚽ The front line

The World Cup is here! Let’s talk Qatar-Ecuador

CBS Sports

OK, I’ll be honest: I’m not an expert on Qatari or Ecuadorian football. But, if we’re still being honest: I know more than you do about these two sides, so let me fill you in. As a host country, Qatar did not need to qualify for the World Cup. Instead, they went and competed in the CONMEBOL Copa America in 2019 and the Concacaf Gold Cup in 2021. Is this normal? No. But it happened and it was… OK? Not necessarily good, but respectable. In 2019, it drew Paraguay (2-2), narrowly lost to Colombia (1-0) and then to Argentina (2-0). They then reached the semi-finals of the Gold Cup by drawing Panama before beating a string of poor teams in Grenada, Honduras and El Salvador. They were eventually eliminated by a United States B team in the final minutes of the semifinals. The The biggest success this Qatar team had was winning the 2019 Asian Cup and beating Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan — all World Cup participants — along the way. Anyway, their entire team is playing at home, so while we could expect players like Akram Afif is their most dangerous threat on the ball, it’s not like we’ve been watching him recently.

Ecuador, on the other hand, has some real international pedigree. Specifically, average Moises Caicedo is a potential star in manufacturing. He currently plays for Brighton, alongside Ecuador team-mate Pervis Estupinan, a dangerous two-way full-back with big clubs already on the lookout. Speaking of big clubs, Manchester United are reportedly interested in signing the pair before they make the jump to Brighton. But, really, what speaks volumes for the talent level of this Ecuador side is how they qualified for the World Cup. South America is a stacked region and Ecuador is here while the usual mainstays of the tournament, Chile and Colombia, are at home on their sofas.

For a while it looked like this match might be relatively meaningless, just a nice way for the home team to have a moment in the sun before both of these teams left the stage. The Netherlands are heavily favored to win this group and Senegal looked likely to be the team to join them. But Senegal lost star striker Sadio Mane, so now everything is wide open. It would be a shock if Qatar made a run, but for Ecuador, the knockouts are definitely in the cards.

We have a lot more about the opener for you:

Want more World Cup coverage? Listen below and follow along House of Championsa daily CBS Sports soccer podcast, bringing you top analysis, commentary, picks and more during the big games in Qatar.

🔗 Link game in the middle

Another day, another devastating injury

In football We trust YouTube

And yet another star will miss the tournament. Karim Benzema he was trying to get back to fitness and during his training again with France, everything collapsed. Benzema is the third player France will need to find a last-minute replacement in their squad after Christopher Nkunku and Presnel Kempembe also succumbed to the injury.

At least the United States men’s national team got some good news on the injury front. Weston McKennie and Segino Dest both declared fit to play on Saturday.

Now, let’s hit some links:

Listen below and follow along In Soccer We Trust: A CBS Sports Soccer Podcast where three of your favorite former USMNT players cover everything you could want to know about the United States Men’s National Team during the World Cup in Qatar.

💰 The back line

The best bet

One match today so you have a choice.

All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.

  • Qatar vs. Ecuador, 11 a.m. ET
    💰 THE CHOICE: Ecuador (+135). All the way leading up to this tournament, my business hypothesis was that it was going to be an extremely strong year for the South American teams. I stand by it. It’s possible that I’ll eventually see some evidence that will change my mind, but until then, Ecuador should be the better team and should be enough to overcome home advantage. If this is South America’s year, it won’t be Ecuador who will ultimately reap the rewards, but they are capable of getting things off to a good start.

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