The day before the opening game of the World Cup between Qatar and Ecuador, two giant pandas housed at the newly established Panda House in Doha's Al Khor Park invited the wrath of Qataris by predicting the outcome of the match. The 'anti-national' giant pandas, Suhail and Thuraya, predicted that the hosts would lose their first World Cup match and left the local fans fuming.
One of the pandas walked around the Panda House before coming closer to the glass screen where the flags of Qatar and Ecuador were placed. The panda then sniffed both the flags and placed its paw on the Ecuador flag, thus predicting that the winner could be Ecuador. The local fans, who were confident of Qatar beginning their World Cup campaign on a winning note, were not amused.
It was a falcon named Libro who offered some relief to the fans. In a video shared by a local television channel, Libro was seen flying towards two drones carrying the Qatar and Ecuador flag and grabbing the Qatar flag thus making its choice clear.
However, their joy was short-lived as Qatar were ruthlessly exposed by an impressive Ecuador in the inaugural match. The difference in class between the Asian champions and the team that finished fourth in the CONMEBOL qualification group behind Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay was visible on the pitch. Although their early goal was disallowed by VAR, Ecuador did not let that affect their confidence. Eventually, their captain Enner Valencia scored two back-to-back goals in the first-half and put the match beyond Qatar's reach as the home fans sat in stunned silence.
The loss to Ecuador dealt a heavy blow to Qatar's ambitions to progress to the next round. The other two teams in the fray – the Netherlands and Senegal – are stronger than Ecuador.
Nevertheless, the result would have made the two giant pandas at Al Khor Park happy. Like Paul the Octopus at the 2010 World Cup and Achilles the cat at the 2018 edition, Suhail and Thuraya can carry on with their soothsaying business. The pandas were a gift from the Chinese people to the Qatari people to mark the World Cup.