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Best ever World Cup openers

The 2022 World Cup begins on Sunday, with hosts Qatar taking on Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. Neutrals will be hoping for an entertaining encounter in the mould of these five opening games from tournaments gone by.

Argentina 0-1 Cameroon (1990)

Cameroon became the first African nation to reach the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1990. Their campaign began with a remarkable 1-0 defeat of Argentina, the winners of the competition four years prior and among the favourites to lift the trophy in Italy.

Cameroon were reduced to 10 men when Andre Kana-Biyik saw red in the 61st minute, but the Indomitable Lions nonetheless opened the scoring soon through Francois Omam-Biyik soon after. A physical performance led to another Cameroonian player being given his marching orders late on, but this remains one of the most famous upsets in World Cup history.

Germany 4-2 Costa Rica (2006)

The highest scoring curtain-raiser in World Cup history (excluding the 1934 edition when eight games kicked off simultaneously), hosts Germany eventually saw off a dogged Costa Rica outfit. Philipp Lahm gave the Nationalelf a dream start in the sixth minute, but Paulo Wanchope restored parity before the quarter-hour mark.

A brace either side of half-time from Miroslav Klose gave Germany a two-goal cushion, before Wanchope again found the net to set up a nervy finish. The home nation could only begin properly celebrating after Torsten Frings made it 4-2 with 87 minutes on the clock.

France 0-1 Senegal (2002)

Senegal stunned the defending champions – and their former colonial power – in their first game at a World Cup. Pape Bouba Diop scored the only goal of the match after 30 minutes, with France’s star-studded side featuring Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and David Trezeguet unable to find a way back.

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This was the start of something special for Senegal, who advanced to the last eight. As for France, a 0-0 draw with Uruguay and 2-0 loss to Denmark sent them home before the knockout stage.

Argentina 0-1 Belgium (1982)

In terms of the standard of the two teams involved, this was one of the highest quality World Cup openers of all time. Argentina were the holders in 1982, while Belgium were tipped as dark horses after a talented generation finished as runners-up at the European Championship two years earlier.

Ahead of his impending move to Barcelona, Diego Maradona had an extra incentive to shine at the Camp Nou. But Belgium successfully shackled the forward and ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a goal from Erwin Vandenbergh just after the hour mark. Both teams went on to be eliminated in the second group phase.

Brazil 2-1 Scotland (1998)

Brazil went into the 1998 World Cup looking to retain the trophy they had won four years earlier. Few anticipated Scotland giving them much trouble in the opener, but Craig Brown’s side actually held their own at the Stade de France.

Brazil went ahead early on through Cesar Sampaio, but the underdogs were back on level terms courtesy of a John Collins penalty before the break. The Selecao had to dig deep but they eventually found a second, as Tom Boyd put through his own net to condemn Scotland to defeat.

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