Tuesday 05 April 2022, 10:00

The history of curtain-raising hosts

  • Qatar to play opening match of FIFA World Cup against Ecuador

  • We take a look back at past opening matches for host nations

  • Hosts have yet to suffer defeat in a tournament opener on home soil

As became the traditional from 2006, the host nation will get to play the official opening match of the FIFA World Cup™. The showdown with Ecuador will also be Qatar’s debut in the global finals. FIFA looks back through history to see how hosts have fared in the past opening matches.

Italy kick things off with a bang

At the 1934 World Cup, the eight opening-round matches were all played simultaneously. Hosts Italy faced USA in Rome and certainly enjoyed playing in front of their own crowd, their 7-1 win laying the foundations for their maiden world title. Angelo Schiavio was the standout player on the day, notching a hat-trick.

Brazil, Sweden and Chile all victorious

In 1950, Brazil beat Mexico 4-0 in the curtain-raiser at the Maracana. Eight years later and El Tri were also on the receiving end of a defeat at the hands of the home team, with Sweden winning 3-0 in Solna. In 1962, four matches were played at once to get the tournament up and running, and again the hosts the successful, Chile defeating Switzerland 3-1.

Stalemates in London and Mexico City

The opening matches for the host nations at the World Cups in 1966 and 1970 were a lot less spectacular than what had gone before. In the first-ever official opening match of a World Cup in 1966, eventual winners England drew 0-0 with Uruguay at Wembley Stadium. Then at the World Cup in Mexico in 1970, the host nation began the tournament against Soviet Union, with over 100,000 fans in the Azteca Stadium witnessed a goalless draw.

1970 World Cup match between Mexico and Soviet Union


From 1974 to 2002, it was always the defending champions who played the opening match, and only in 2006 did the honour go back to the hosts. Germany (4-2 against Costa Rica in 2006), Brazil (3-1 against Croatia in 2014) and Russia (5-0 against Saudi Arabia in 2018) all recorded a win to kick off World Cups they staged. South Africa, meanwhile, were held to a 1-1 draw by Mexico in 2010. To date, no hosts have lost the opening match of a World Cup – a good sign for Qatar ahead of their meeting with Ecuador on 21 November.

Lahm’s opener