The Asian Cup 2011 kicked off yesterday with a colourful opening ceremony at the Khalifa Stadium that gave a glimpse of what to expect of Qatar when it hosts the World Cup in 2022.
But the home team failed to live up to the expectations losing the opening match 2-0 to Uzbekistan.
The half-an-hour-long ceremony began with fireworks as a prelude just as the stadium lights were switched off temporarily.
The spectators, who filled the 50,000-capacity stadium, being invited to sing Qatar's national anthem, as a "very special gift" for His Highness the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, performed "As Salam al Amiri" as the Emir entered the stadium.
The spotlight then shone on an elderly gentleman and child who addressed the Qatari ruler, praising him for his efforts in developing the nation.
The spectators were then treated with a dazzling display of lights, fireworks that lit up the night sky. The entire play arena resembled a sea of white as artistes paraded with white flags even as hi-tech laser projected images of flags of 16 participating countries inviting loud cheers from the galleries.
But it was a disappointing evening for the home fans as Qatar went down tamely to Uzbekistan, losing the opening match 2-0.
After a goalless opening half, Odil Akhmedov put the Central Asians ahead in the 58th minute and Server Djeparov adding another in the 77th minute to go top of Group A with three points.
Qatar had the first close look at the goal but Fabio Cesar's header in the fifth minute off a cross from Hussain Yasser went wide.
That move woke up Uzbekistan and they almost took the lead a minute later but striker Alexander Geynrikh was unlucky to find the crossbar with his snap shot.
Geynrikh and Jasur Khasanov combined well to put pressure on Qatari defence, and a minute later created another scoring opportunity. Geynrikh, after a surging into the area, squared the ball to Khasanov but Burhan made a fine save, quickly closing down the Uzbek forward.
The Uzbeks continued to dictate the midfield, coming on with good moves but they failed to put away.
In the 19th minute, another chance went begging for Uzbekistan as Khasanov missed the target from close range and lunging Geynrykh failing to meet the ball near the far post.
Qatar showed urgency as half time approached and they almost broke the deadlock in the 39th minute off a free kick after a foul on Sebastien Soria. But Uzbekistan escaped as Fabio Cesar's well drilled free-kick hit the post.
Qatar returned with more verve after the break as Soria and Cesar trading crisp passes near Uzbek goal but failed crack the defence.
The visitors then dominated the proceedings and punished the home side for their laxity in the 58th minute. Amid a defensive melee, Odil Akhmedov gave Uzbekistan a 1-0 lead. Taking advantage of acres of space, the midfielder fired a looping shot from 25 yards which went into the net after hitting the underside of the crossbar.
The situation turned from bad to worse in the 77th minute as captain Server Djeparov doubled Uzbekistan's lead after a horrendous error by Khalfan Ibrahim. And the Uzbek captain slammed home after intercepting Khalfan's weak back pass to captain Bilal Mohamed.
Qatar pushed hard for a goal but the Uzbek defence held firm, denying Khalfan in the 80th minute and substitute Yusef Ahmed six minutes later.
Qatar play their second group game against China at the same venue on Wednesday while the Uzbeks face Kuwait at the Al Gharafa stadium.
The opening ceremony was attended by HH the Heir Apparent Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir's Personal Representative HH Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Emir's Special Adviser HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalifa al-Thani, HE the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor al-Thani and HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy and Industry Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah.