Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez defended Luis Suarez whose extra-time, last-minute deliberate handball denied Ghana a winning goal and a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
Suarez was red-carded by Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca for the illegal goal-line clearance which kept out
substitute Dominic Adiyah's header while Ghana were awarded a penalty last night.
Leading scorer Asamoah Gyan had the chance to make Ghana the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals, but he sent his penalty attempt crashing off the crossbar to give the Uruguayans a reprieve.
The South Americans went on to claim their first World Cup semi-final appearance since 1970 when they prevailed 4-2
in the penalty shoot-out which followed.
Tabarez, whose side had battled from a goal down to draw 1-1 at the end of regulation time, defended Suarez's desperate
"It was instinctive, he instinctively put his hand out to the ball and was red-carded and will miss the next game,"
"He has paid for the consequences of his actions. He wasn't to know that Ghana would miss the resulting penalty. It
is not fair to say that we cheated our way to victory."
Two-time champions Uruguay will now play the Netherlands in the semi-finals in Cape Town on Tuesday.
Man-of-the-match Diego Forlan, whose equalising free kick kept Uruguay in the match, said: "It's a pity (for Suarez that
he will miss the semi), he made a good save today, we'll try to do our best. He played his part. He didn't score a goal but he saved one and now we go to the semi-final."
Tabarez said now that his team were in the semi-finals, where they face the Dutch who knocked out Brazil earlier
Friday, they can be considered as one of the four best sides in the world.
"We didn't play good football tonight but we fought very hard," he said.
"We are amongst the four best teams at this World Cup.
This is something we would never have imagined before coming to South Africa. My players are very united. I don't know how far we can go in the tournament. The Netherlands have some great players, but we cannot betray this group of players.
"If there is a glimmer of hope we must hang on. We will certainly not throw in the towel before playing that match."
Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, who saved skipper John Mensah and Adiyiah's attempts in the penalty shootout, said he felt calm while making those match-winning saves.
"It was one of my calmest moments. I was lucky I had the right instincts," the Lazio shot-stopper said.
"I felt nothing when Gyan took his extra-time penalty, my mind went blank. Honestly, there was nothing to think about, I
was calm, I tried to put him off and luckily he missed."