LAFC's Sebas Méndez helps lead Ecuador over Qatar in World Cup opener

Sebastian Mendez celebration Ecuador World Cup

The 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off Sunday with Ecuador defeating host nation Qatar, 2-0, powered by Enner Valencia’s first-half brace.

The veteran Fenerbahçe forward, who was denied an early goal because of an offside call following Video Review, scored the first goal in Qatar from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after being taken down by goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb in the box.

Valencia, Ecuador’s all-time leading scorer, added his second in the 31st minute, redirecting home a header following Angelo Preciado’s service as Ecuador temporarily topped Group A.

LAFC midfielder Sebastián Méndez was in La Tri’s starting XI and proved a solid contributor throughout his 90-minute shift. 

Fellow LAFC midfielder Jose Cifuentes made his World Cup debut in the 76th minute when replacing Valencia, who hobbled off with an apparent injury.

Ecuador’s other MLS players – LAFC left back Diego Palacios and Seattle Sounders FC center back Xavier Arreaga – were unused substitutes.

During the 2022 MLS season, the LAFC trio contributed to the league’s eighth all-time MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield double-winning squad. Meanwhile, Arreaga helped Seattle raise a historic Concacaf Champions League title.

Ecuador’s starters also included former D.C. United forward Michael Estrada and former Minnesota United FC forward Romario Ibarra. They’re both now in Liga MX, respectively playing for Cruz Azul and Pachuca.

Both teams play their second Group A match Friday when Ecuador meet the Netherlands and Qatar encounter Senegal.