Africa, Sport

Uruguay come back from dead, wrest penalty lottery from Ghana

It should have been Ghana, but justice is a fickle mistress at World Cups. They played a great game, they fought bravely and, at the end, had their fate in their hands. It turned out it was not Africa’s time - this time. It ended Uruguay 5 (4), Ghana 3 (2).

Rarely it is that a whole continent rests its hopes and dreams on one team, nearly a billion people stand united behind 11 football players. Ghana had that honour and responsibility on Friday night. They played against the best team Uruguay have put together for 60 years, and after 120 minutes of titanic battle, that continental responsibility came down on Gyan’s shoulders. The whole of Africa and the world watched on tenterhooks, as Gyan, by far the best Ghanaian player at this World Cup, lost his nerve, hit the crossbar from the penalty kick, condemning his team to a penalty shootout which they ultimately lost. Talk about fate and the difference that 10cm can make in life.

Unfortunately, that is all that’s left for Ghana’s players and their millions of supporters to do now – fantasise about all the ways in which Friday night’s game could have ended as the triumph of their lifetimes. And it could have been Ghana, in many more ways than just that fateful penalty in the 120th minute.

Photo: Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan reacts after the 2010 World Cup quarter-final soccer match between Uruguay and Ghana at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 2, 2010. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Ghana started the game the second-best side. For the first 20 minutes, Uruguay’s domination was complete and many a supporter considered a goal for Forlan or Suarez an inevitability.

But in the 30th minute, Vorsan jumped high and mightily, his header missing the goal by mere millimetres. Something happened at that moment, something clicked in African lines and from that moment on, the Soccer City pitch was controlled by the players in red-and-gold shirts, culminating in Muntari’s rocket from 35m that hit Muslera’s net with all the power of an absolute improbable drive, and 20 seconds before the end of the first half. Suddenly the future shone radiant for the Black Stars – and for African dreams.

Alas, the second half brought that infamous menace of the man with great skills and footballing style (and terrible hair style) Forlan, whose free kick in the 55th minute shattered Kingson’s otherwise impenetrable shield in front of Ghana’s goal. From there on, the battle was fierce, with both sides being only a goal away from disaster or the World Cup semi-finals. Talk about high stakes. 

And that’s where we come back to the beginning of our story, with Gyan staring into Muslera’s eyes, just before he wrenched defeat from the jaws of victory. And that is where we have to give credit to Uruguay. They are a truly good team that play an honest, tough game centred around the artistry and brilliance of Forlan and Suarez. They had already survived the two extra-times, during which they hadn’t lost their cool or played dirty. Their advance to the semi-finals came only after they fought their hearts out against the tough opponents and an unfriendly crowd. Their game is one of deft and clever passes, mostly fair play and a mighty will to win.  May we suggest that, even as they out-kicked the beloved Ghanaian team, that Uruguay is a better team to support than the Dutch, whose success is based much more on calculus and clinical spreadsheets than a love of the game.

Here are our reporter’s notes:

Team lineups

Uruguay: Fernando Muslera, Maximiliano Pereira, Diego Lugano, Mauricio Victorino, Jorge Fucile, Álvaro Fernández, Diego Pérez, Egidio Arévalo, Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, Diego Forlán.

Ghana: Richard Kingson, John Pantsil, Isaac Vorsah, John Mensah, Hans Sarpei, Kwadwo Asamoah, Anthony Annan, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Samuel Inkoom Substitution, Asamoah Gyan, Sulley Muntari Goal Substitution

First half

  • 4th minute: Forlan charges down the middle of the pitch, passes to Hernandez, whose cross unexpectedly swerves towards Kingson’s goal, flying dangerously close to the crossbar.
  • 5th minute: Forlan’s two corners are both dangerous. He looks to be in a good mindspace. Ghana will have problems  containing him tonight.
  • 11th minute: Suarez finds space for himself on the left side, but his shot from the edge of the penalty box is straight to Kingson. Still, he had shaken off Pantsil with worrying ease. Worrying for Ghana, that is.
  • 14th minute: Kingson fists Forlan’s free-kick straight into the air, only to be saved by the referee’s whistle over an infringement.
  • 18th minute: Mensah diverts Forlan’s corner-kick straight to Kingson’s head. A freak accident that could have cost Ghana a lot, but they are very, very lucky.
  • 20th minute: Fucile gets the first yellow card of the match for a rough tackle on Kwadwo Asamoah.
  • 25th minute: Forlan’s shot at Ghana’s goal goes high and wide.
  • 26th minute: Suarez’s shot from 16m is saved brilliantly by Kingson.

Uruguay are dominating the game completely. The Ghanaians will have to change something drastically if they are to change the direction of the game. Forlan and Suarez are drilling through its defences with consummate ease.

  • 30th minute: Ghana almost scores as Vorsan jumps highly and mightily, his header missing Muslera’s goal by a whisker.
  • 31st minute: Ghana’s lightning-fast counter-attack brings Gyan to 10m from Muslera. His low shot misses, but only just.

Suddenly, Ghana and their strategy of counter-attacks becomes clear. It may be successful, defence permitting.

  • 34th minute: Muslera’s brave lunge at Asamoah’s feet save Uruguay from a lot of trouble.
  • 38th minute: Muntari’s header from an acute angle is a mere metre wide. Ghana are more and more dangerous.
  • 42nd minute:Fucile lands badly  and is temporarily concussed.
  • 45th minute: Kevin Prince Boateng’s attempt at an air-kick is unsuccessful, but dramatic and could have been sensational.
  • 46th minute: Ghana score! Suli Muntari’s wicked shot from 35m bends away from Muslera after hitting the ground. Soccer City erupts in cheers.

Photo: Referee Olegario Benquerenca of Portugal gestures after Ghana’s Sulley Muntari scored a goal during a 2010 World Cup quarter-final soccer match against Uruguay at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 2, 2010. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Second half

  • 48th minute: Arevalo picks up a yellow card after body-checking Boateng.
  • 54th minute: Pantsil gets a yellow card after mopping up Fucile.
  • 55th minute: Forlan scores! A smashing shot from a free-kick, the ball moves in the air and fools Kingson. Uruguay supporters go berserk.

Photo: Ghana’s goalkeeper Richard Kingson (C) concedes a goal from a free-kick by Uruguay’s Diego Forlan during the 2010 World Cup quarter-final soccer match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 2, 2010. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

  • 58th minute: Gyan’s shot after the Ghana counter-attack is barely saved by Muslera. Ghana appear to be back from the funk zone.
  • 59th minute: Diego Perez cuts across Asamoah, earns yellow card.
  • 63rd minute: In an almost carbon copy of their first goal against South Korea, Forlan and Suarez combine, with Kingson making a similar mistake. The difference: Suarez doesn’t score against Ghana.
  • 70th minute: Suarez’s shot at goal saved by Kingson again, only just. Phenomenal reflexes.
  • 74th minute: Forlan’s shot hits the side netting, but no real danger for Ghana.

The game turns into an exchange of threatening runs that repeatedly end not coming close enough to either keeper to cause any trouble.

  • 93rd minute – Extra time.
  • ET 3rd minute: Two corners for Ghana, who are pressing the Uruguyans into their penalty box.
  • ET 8th minute: Gyan makes a telling run into the penalty, but is intercepted by Scotti. Gyan is injured, but ultimately, maybe fatefully, decides to stay on the pitch.
  • ET 14th minute: Lodeiro’s shot from an acute angle deflects straight into Kingson’s hands.
  • ET 20th minute: Apiah’s cross is met by Gyan’s header that misses Muslera’s ball by a wide margin.
  • ET 24th minute: Forlan’s left-footed rocket misses Kingson’s goal by a metre or two.
  • ET 25th minute: Havoc in the Uruguayan box is eventually cleared without a real chance for Ghana.
  • ET 28th minute: Boateng’s header flies close, but not too close to Uruguayan goal.
  • ET 29th minute: Muslera brilliantly saves a shot from Gyan. 
  • ET 30th minute: Penalty for Ghana! Suarez is red-carded for handling the ball on the goal line! Gyan hits the crossbar from the penalty spot! What a disaster!!!

End of the extra time. Penalty shootout.

  • 1st penalty: Forlan scores. 1:0 Uruguay.
  • 1st  penalty: Gyan scores, very good, 1:1
  • 2nd penalty Victorino smashes it high into Kingson’s net 2:1
  • 2nd penalty Apiah scores 2:2
  • 3rd penalty Scotti scores. Kingson offers not much resistance to what is a pretty bad shot. 3:2
  • 3rd penalty John Mensah’s pretty ordinary penalty is saved by Muslera! It stays 3:2 Uruguay
  • 4th Perreira misses, blasting the ball high over the bar. It remains 3:2

Photo: Uruguay’s goalkeeper Fernando Muslera saves a penalty kick by Ghana’s Dominic Adiyiah during the penalty shootout in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final soccer match at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 2, 2010. REUTERS/Jorge Silva.

  • 4th Adiyiah misses, Muslera saves it in the same spot as Mensah’s shot.
  • 5th Abreu scores!

Uruguay are in the semi-finals of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

By Branko Brkic

Photo: Uruguay’s Sebastian Abreu (13), who scored the winning penalty kick, celebrates with team mates after their 2010 World Cup quarter-final soccer match against Ghana at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 2, 2010. REUTERS/Henry Romero


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