Suspected bomb scare forces Black Stars to evacuate hotel
Bukayo Saka, born of Nigerian parents, was England’s hero yesterday as the Three Lions began their Qatar 2022 World Cup journey with a resounding 6-2 defeat of hapless Iran.
The Arsenal golden boy struck twice in a game Gareth Southgate’s men used to announce their arrival as one of the favourites for the World Cup title.
Having reached the semi-finals four years ago and finished as Euros runners-up last summer, England arrived among the favourites despite a six-match winless run and Nations League relegation.
England ended that wait for a victory as superb Saka scored twice in his first major tournament appearance since missing his spot-kick in last year’s European Championship final defeat to Italy.
Marcus Rashford has not represented the national team at all since missing his attempt in that shootout and scored within minutes of coming on in a win that Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling and Jack Grealish also scored in.
It was a positive way to start the tournament, with the Group B opener a night to savour given the challenging build-up to a tournament mired in controversies and questions about hosts Qatar’s suitability.
It was, however, a bad day for Africa as continent’s brightest hope for a good outing, Senegal, began on a losing note. The Teranga Lions were beaten by a plucky Holland 2-0 despite matching the 1988 European champions toe-to-toe for much of the game.
The Netherlands scored twice in the final minutes through Cody Gakpo and substitute Davy Klaassen to beat the African champions at Al Thumama Stadium.
The Dutch, who missed out on the 2018 World Cup, looked to be heading for a scrappy goalless draw after wasting several good chances, but man-of-the-match, Gakpo, beat keeper Edouard Mendy and nod in a deep Frenkie De Jong cross with the back of his head.
Klaassen then pounced on a weak Mendy save to score on the rebound nine minutes into stoppage time.
The Dutch join Ecuador, 2-0 winners over Qatar on Sunday, on three points at the top of the group and the top two meet on Friday.
African interest in the competition continues today as Tunisia meets Denmark in Group D match.
Meanwhile, the alarm was raised in Black Stars hotel, on Sunday afternoon, over a suspected bomb scare.
The Double Tree by Hilton was emptied on Sunday afternoon for 45 minutes while the fire service examined the building.
All guests at the 140-room Double Tree Hilton and associated restaurants in Doha’s Al Saad district had to depart when an emergency alarm was raised.
Fire services arrived to examine the hotel, with the Ghana FA saying that guests were allowed back to their rooms after about 45 minutes.
But it was the second time in 48 hours that the Double Tree was emptied due to safety concerns – with all guests instructed to leave just before Ghana arrived last Friday, to allow officials and sniffer dogs to examine every room.
The team were greeted by a couple of hundred Ghana fans upon their arrival on Friday evening – by which point guests were already permitted to return. Extensive checks have also been conducted in other hotels housing teams as part of a tight security operation.
In a statement, Ghana’s FA said: “Just after 14:30 Qatar time, on Sunday, November 20th, the emergency alarm at the Ghana team hotel in Doha went off, prompting all occupants to self-evacuate.
“The Qatar Fire Service crew arrived shortly after to attend to the emergency alarm. It was marked safe after approximately 45 minutes of checks and all occupants were able to re-occupy their hotel rooms.”
Ghana are one of the last teams to get their campaign underway, against Portugal on Thursday afternoon. They will also face Uruguay and South Korea.
There are seven English-based players in the Black Stars’ 26-man squad, including Leicester ’s Daniel Amartey, Brighton ’s Tariq Lamptey and Arsenal midfielder, Thomas Partey.
Head coach, Otto Addo, has added former Brighton manager, Chris Hughton, to his backroom team, while young Ajax star, Mohammed Kudus, is being monitored by several Premier League sides.