The opening game between 50th-ranked Qatar and 44th-ranked Ecuador is not exactly a game to look forward to but the fact that it’s the curtain-raiser for the 2022 FIFA World Cup means it’s guaranteed eyeballs.
In honour of that game which promises to be a snooze fest, here are some of the least memorable opening games in FIFA World Cup history.
South Africa 1-1 Mexico (South Africa 2010)
The first-ever World Cup game on African soil generated a lot of buzz and rightly so but the actual football in Johannesburg proved underwhelming.
The tense atmosphere and overall lack of quality on display made for an uneventful first half and even though there were two second half goals, the game had almost no entertainment value.
It would be fondly remembered for the opening goal, Siphiwe Tshabalala’s superb strike after 55 minutes, promptly followed by Peter Drury’s immortal words, “goal for South Africa, goal for all Africa” which added colour to the game.
But objectively speaking, as a football match, it was not particularly memorable or even at all fun to watch from a neutral perspective.
USA 1-1 Switzerland (USA 1994)
USA 1994 kicked off at Soldier Field in Chicago with Germany beating Bolivia 1-0 because up unitl 2006, the opening game of FIFA World Cups featured the defending champions and not the host nation.
USA’s opening game was at the Pointiac Silverdome stadium in Michigan with hosts USA playing out a 1-1 draw against Switzerland.
The game was largely uneventful but punctuated with two great goals as both teams scored directly from free kicks.
Swiss midfielder Georges Bregy found the top corner with a well-taken free kick in the 39th minute but the hosts clapped backed almost immediately.
Eric Wynalda levelled in the 44th minute in similar fashion, finding the top corner with a free kick from a farther distance.
Beyond those moments, the game offered little else and proved largely forgettable in World Cup history.
Italy 1-0 Austria (Italy 1990)
The opening game of Italia 90 was a memorable affair as Cameroon stunned defending champions Argentina.
But the hosts’ opening game was a contrast of that as Italy nicked a hard-fought 1-0 win against Austria in an underwhelming game at the Stadio Olimpico.
Italy were the overwhelming favourites and tried to break down the resolute Austrians who were playing a deep block, making for a one-dimensional and boring game.
Italy would eventually find a way through in the 78th minute through Salvatore Schillaci’s goal but the game had little else to talk about.