World Cup 2022: Every World Cup opening game this century

Neymar of Brazil celebrates after scoring his country's second goal of the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup against Croatia on 12 June, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil
(Image credit: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images))

The 2022 World Cup (opens in new tab) gets underway in a matter of hours, as hosts Qatar take on Ecuador in the opening game of the tournament.

And if it's anything like other opening matches this century – which have produced an average of 3.6 goals – then we could be in for a bit of a treat.

Here, FFT takes a look back through the previous five World Cup curtain-raisers...

2002: France 0-1 Senegal

Senegal's players celebrate by the corner flag after Papa Bouba Diop's winning goal against France in the opening match of the 2002 FIFA World Cup on 31 May, 2002 in Seoul, Republic of Korea

(Image credit: Jacques Demarthon/AFP via Getty Images)

Until 2002, tradition dictated that the holders qualified automatically for the World Cup – and played in the tournament curtain-raiser. Enter France, who headed to South Korea / Japan 2002 as not just the reigning world champions but Euro 2000 winners too. First up for Les Bleus: Senegal, making their debut on the biggest stage of all.

Roger Lemerre's French team might have been weakened by the absence of injured talisman Zinedine Zidane, but no one could have foreseen what was coming. Senegal – coached by Frenchman Bruno Metsu and with a squad based almost exclusively in France – sprung one of the great World Cup shocks thanks to Papa Bouba Diop's close-range strike on half-an-hour. Cue pandemonium among the Senegalese players, staff and fans alike – and one of the most iconic celebrations in the tournament's history.

2006: Germany 4-2 Costa Rica

Philipp Lahm of Germany celebrates after scoring his team's first goal against Costa Rica in the opening match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup on 9 June, 2006 in Munich, Germany

(Image credit: Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images)

What's the best way to kick off your home World Cup? Well, as a team, with a good win. As a player... scoring one of the goals of the tournament six minutes in probably does the job. Just ask Germany's Philipp Lahm, who curled in an absolute stunner from the corner of the box to put his country 1-0 up against Costa Rica in Munich.

Mind you, there was much more to this game – the highest-scoring World Cup opener since the tournament first kicked off with a single match in 1938. Costa Rica got back on level terms through Paulo Wanchope six minutes later – only for all-time record World Cup scorer Mirsolav Klose to restore Germany's lead with barely a quarter-of-an-hour played. Klose made it 3-1 just after the hour mark – only for Wanchope to also make it a brace with 17 minutes to go. It could still have gone either way then, but Torsten Frings settled a thoroughly thrilling encounter late on.

2010: South Africa 1-1 Mexico

South Africa's players celebrate by the corner flag after Siphiwe Tshabalala's opening goal of the first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup against Mexico on 11 June, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa

(Image credit: Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)

"It's Tshabalalaaaaa! Goal Bafana Bafana! Goal for South Africa! Goal for all Africa!" 

Peter Drury's commentary is as memorable as Siphiwe Tshabalala's goal itself (and the perfectly synchronised celebratory team dance which followed) – and it's easy to forget that this wasn't the only goal of the very first game of the first-ever African World Cup. Against the backdrop of the deafening vuvezelas, it looked as though the hosts might notch a famous victory – but World Cup stalwarts Mexico had other ideas...

Eleven minutes from time, Rafael Marquez stroked home the equaliser. And it ultimately proved as vital for Mexico as it did South Africa: El Tri advanced to the last 16 ahead of the hosts on goal difference.

2014: Brazil 3-1 Croatia

Neymar of Brazil celebrates after scoring against Croatia in the opening match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup on 12 June, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil

(Image credit: NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)

Brazil's ultimate humiliation would come as they lost 7-1 to Germany in the semi-finals of their home World Cup – but for a little while, it looked like they'd slip up in the tournament curtain-raiser. Just 12 minutes into this clash in Sao Paulo, Marcelo put through his own net to hand Croatia the lead.

Fortunately for the Selecao, their national hero was on hand to come to the rescue. Neymar equalised just before the 30-minute mark, before completing the turnaround from the penalty spot midway through the second half. Oscar then made sure by adding a third goal in stoppage time.

2018: Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia

Russia's players celebrate after Aleksandr Golovin's goal to make it 5-0 against Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup on 14 June in Moscow, Russia

(Image credit: Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

It could be a while before we see Russia back in FIFA competition, but it was only four years ago that they hosted the World Cup – and got up and running in emphatic fashion. Just as four years previously, the opening goal of the tournament came 12 minutes into its opening game – as Yuri Gazinsky put his country in front against Saudi Arabia. Denis Cheryshev made it 2-0 shortly before half-time – but the match really came to life later on.

Midway through the second period, Artem Dzyuba secured three points with a third goal – and as the clock ticked over into injury time, there was still time for not one but two more. Cheryshev bagged his second, before Aleksandr Golovin put the cherry on the cake by making it 5-0.

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