The FIFA World Cup got off to a confusing start with host's Qatar benefiting from a confusing, but correct, VAR decision in just the fifth minute of the opening match against Ecuador.
In 92 years of football's biggest event, a host nation had never lost their opening game until Ecuador broke the streak and defeated Qatar 2-0.
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Ecuador were far superior during the match and the scoreline looked like it could have been even worse with Qatar offering very little going forward.
The dismal display also prompted a mass exodus from the home crowd before full-time.
However, while there has been plenty of controversy about the host nation's human rights record leading into the FIFA World Cup, it took just five minutes for VAR to intervene.
Ecuador appeared to have scored a goal when Enner Valencia put the ball in the back of the net after a challenge on the keeper.
Ecuador's Felix Torres initially jumped to challenge the keeper and headed the ball in the box.
Michael Estrada benefited from the deflection and headed the ball towards Valencia who slotted it home.
However, it appeared Estrada's foot was offside after Torres' initial collision with the keeper.
The images displayed during broadcast confused viewers and it even prompted football greats Alan Shearer and Gary Lineker to question if VAR needs to be intervening on such calls.
“I’m going to have a blooming high blood pressure by the end of the month if this carries on this way,” Shearer said on BBC broadcast. “I don’t think there’s any person watching this in the world who thinks that this is off-side. Ball goes up, the challenge is there, we’re all thinking, ‘OK, it’s not a high kick there, he wins the header, there’.”
Lineker claimed it was ‘absurd', before going on to ask: “Really? Is that what VAR is for?"
Despite the VAR call being right, the images and lack of explanation confused fans around the world.
Many in the football world were divided over the call and slammed the controversy.
Yes, that is not offside.
5 minutes into the World Cup, are you kidding? pic.twitter.com/wsA501ajrm
— Has the Referee or VAR made a poor decision? (@PoorEPLreferees) November 20, 2022
This is what happened with the disallowed goal. The ball came off Felix Torres, who was challenging the keeper.
It fell to Michael Estrada, whose foot you can see in an offside position. He headed the ball back to Torres.
Correct VAR decision! #QatarWorldCup2022 #QATECU pic.twitter.com/451TjTjGYK
— Dale Johnson (@DaleJohnsonESPN) November 20, 2022
Don’t think BBC have made enough of a fuss about this VAR call already? Absolutely horrendous call? That is embarrassing 😂
— Zach (@Zach479129001) November 20, 2022
How’s that offsides?
— Patrick Weah (@weah526) November 20, 2022
If it's offside then you'd think they'd show us it on TV...
— Mark Goldbridge (@markgoldbridge) November 20, 2022
Can someone explain to me how it was an offside because I’m putting all my football knowledge into it and I’m not getting it
— Siavoush Fallahi (@SiavoushF) November 20, 2022
Despite confusion during the game, Ecuador put the setback behind them.
Valencia extended his lead as the nation's highest ever goal scorer as he went on to slot two goals for his nation.
Qatar are in a precarious position in the group with games against Senegal and the Netherlands remaining.
Football fans slam host nation Qatar for exodus
Valencia's ruled out goal wasn't the only drama in the stadium during the opening match.
While the match started with over 67,000 fans in attendance, football fans around the world were dismayed when the stadium was half-empty early in the second half. Football broadcasts around the world showed dozens of empty seats in the stands in embarrassing scenes for FIFA and Qatar.
Many on social media were also quick to point out that there weren't too many women visible in the crowd, while others brutally labelled the Qatar World Cup the 'worst ever' after just one game.
— Keith Mills (@KeithMillsD7) November 20, 2022
The first World Cup in the Middle East is a chance for Qatar, a tiny Arab country jutting out into the Persian Gulf, to showcase itself to the wider world.
But its football 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 widespread scrutiny of the World Cup in Qatar was never going to stop just because the football had begun, but a win for the host nation would have at least put the country in somewhat a favourable light.
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