The 2022 World Cup, which has garnered controversy long before a ball has been kicked, gets under way on Sunday.
While discussion and debate over whether FIFA should be taking its flagship tournament to Qatar will go on, at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday the attention will be on matters on the pitch.
The host nation, as is now customary, get the proceedings started by taking on Ecuador in Group A, which also includes the Netherlands and a Sadio Mane-less Senegal.
With the help of Opta data, Stats Perform has made some key predictions ahead of the opening match.
All times local.
Qatar v Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium (1900)
Ecuador, who fielded the youngest side on average (25 years and 334 days) across CONMEBOL qualifying, scored 27 goals in the process of taking their place in Qatar, albeit it was a spot disputed – unsuccessfully – by Chile and Peru. It was the highest goal tally an Ecuador side has managed in a single World Cup qualification campaign.
Qatar have won all three of their previous matches played at Al Bayt Stadium, with an aggregate scoreline of 9-0, and they will be hopeful of extending that run at their first appearance at a World Cup. Should they win, they will become the first nation from the AFC confederation to triumph in their maiden match at the competition.
The teams have met three times before, with all of those matches taking place in Qatar. Their head-to-head record is perfectly balanced with one win each and one draw (six goals each), with Qatar winning 4-3 in their most recent encounter in 2018.
Player prediction – Almoez Ali to score: Qatar won the Asian Cup in 2019, beating South Korea and Japan in the process. Striker Almoez Ali led Felix Sanchez's team to glory with nine goals, from only 10 shots on target, in seven games. He is the spearhead of Qatar's attack and will be eager to get his tournament off to a flying start.
Best bet – Victory, but no clean sheet for Qatar: No host nation has ever lost their opening World Cup match (W16 D6), with each of the past two sides winning (Brazil in 2014 and Russia in 2018). There have been 17 goals, at an average of 4.25 per game, scored across the past four World Cup openers. Qatar have the edge, though they have conceded at least twice in each of their past three matches, so Ecuador should get on the scoresheet.