Why was Ecuador's goal ruled out for offside?

Henry Burt
Offside, apparently
Offside, apparently / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

They told us that once the football kicked off, all the issues and controversy would be forgotten. As it turned out, the controversy was only just beginning.

It took just two minutes of the hotly debated 2022 World Cup to produce a moment so baffling, so inexplicable, that football fans all over the world were left scratching their heads.

Why was the goal disallowed?

It came when Ecuador, playing the host nation Qatar on Monday 21 November, were awarded a free kick just inside opposition territory.

In came the cross, Qatari keeper Saad Al Sheeb struggled to reach the ball, and moments later we had our first goal as Enner Valencia headed into an empty net.

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Or did we?

After a minute of confusion, referee Istvan Kovacs indicated that the goal would not stand, with offside given as the reason.

Yet when the replays were shown, there initially appeared to be no offside to be found - nor any other infringement that could have seen the goal disallowed.

It was another ten minutes before the replay was shown again, revealing that Michael Estrada had in fact been offside when the free-kick was taken - if only by a kneecap's length.

It was a major let-off for Qatar just moments into the biggest game in their history, but the decision mattered little in the context of the game as they were swept aside by a vibrant Ecuador side.

Valencia did eventually open the scoring, converting a penalty in the 16th minute. The host nation looked bereft of skill and confidence and were 2-0 down soon shortly after the hour mark as Valencia arrived at the back post to power home a brilliant header.

The second half provided nowhere near the amount of entertainment as the first as Ecuador saw out their 2-0 win, making Qatar the first host nation ever to lose the opening game of a World Cup.