Ghana nearly defied expectations to become the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals but, after being awarded a penalty with the score at 1-1, Asamoah Gyan hit the bar from the spot with the last kick of extra-time. Agonisingly for an entire continent, Ghana then lost a penalty shoot-out 4-2.Updated: Jul 04, 2010 00:04 IST
Ghana nearly defied expectations to become the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals but, after being awarded a penalty with the score at 1-1, Asamoah Gyan hit the bar from the spot with the last kick of extra-time. Agonisingly for an entire continent, Ghana then lost a penalty shoot-out 4-2.
They had their chances in normal time when they briefly led through Sulley Muntari's opening goal, only to see Uruguay hold their nerve in the shoot-out. The South Americans play Holland for the chance to reach the final in this stadium. Ghana can say they went further than any other African team in this competition, previous quarter-finalists Cameroon and Senegal not having made it to penalties, but that will be scant consolation.
Kevin-Prince Boateng missed a header right at the end of the game, before a frantic finale saw Luis Suárez dismissed for handling Dominic Adiyiah's header on the line and Gyan step forward to take the penalty with the last kick of the match.
Gyan was brave enough to take and score Ghana's first penalty in the shoot-out, but to no avail. Once John Mensah and Adiyiah had weak kicks saved by Fernando Muslera, the Uruguayan substitute Sebastien Abreu settled the matter with the coolest of dinks down the middle. It had been quite a game, with two memorable goals from Sulley Muntari and Diego Forlán in normal time.
“It was an incredibly tough match, and we got through without playing brilliantly,” Uruguay's coach Oscar Tabárez said.
“We just did what we had to do, and I must admit I did not think it would be enough when Ghana got that late penalty. We can play better than that, and we hope to put on a much better performance against the Netherlands.”
The Ghana coach was at a loss for words when asked about the Gyan penalty miss. “All I can say it that this is football, we did not deserve to lose in such a way,” he said. “It was a cruel way to go out.”
Uruguay were expecting a physical challenge from Ghana, and lost no time in showing they could handle themselves. In the 10th minute Egidio Arévalo used his strength to hustle Anthony Annan off the ball, setting up the first chance of the game for Suárez, who shot straight at Richard Kingson. Jorge Fucile overstepped the mark with a foul on Kwadwo Asamoah 10 minutes later, picking up a booking that will force him, with Suárez, to miss the semi-final.
Taking advantage of the fact that no one bothered to close him down only a few yards beyond the centre circle, Muntari shot, the ball curling away from the surprised Fernando Muslera at the last moment and finding its way into his bottom corner. Forlán's fourth of the tournament came direct from a free-kick after John Paintsil had gone into the book for a foul on Fucile.
Extra-time was uneventful, until the final two minutes culminating in Gyan's penalty, which were electric. If he had struck his first penalty like he struck his second history might have been made, but it was not to be. One hopes his country and his continent can forgive him. The real villain of the piece was Suárez, who cheated and prospered, or at least his team did. “It was an instinctive reaction, and he was punished for it,” a defensive Tabárez said. “What do you want him to do ? He didn't know what was going to happen with the penalty, it looked like it was going to cost us the game. Winners have to be lucky, I cannot say much more.”
Former player Abedi Pelé spoke up for Ghana. “I think the ball might have crossed the line before it hit the player's hand, so we were unlucky,” he said. “But in the end we lost out on penalty kicks, and we have to take it and get on with the future.”
It is the new ‘Hand of God’, says Suarez
AFP adds:Suarez claimed that his deliberate extra-time, last-minute handball was the 2010 version of the “Hand of God”.
“This was the end of the World Cup. I had no choice. I have the ‘Hand of God’ now,” said Suarez.
Diego Maradona famously credited a goal against England at the 1986 World Cup to the “Hand of God” after he scored with his hand.
“I did it so that my teammates could win the penalty shoot-out. When I saw Gyan miss the penalty it was a great joy,” added Suarez, who misses the semi-final.
I'll bounce back, promises Gyan
Gyan, meanwhile, brushed off his last-minute penalty heartache and vowed to bounce back. “I'll bounce back, I'm strong mentally,” said Gyan, the French club, Rennes forward. “I had the courage to take the penalty, but that's normal, I'm the penalty taker.”
“But that's not the game, now he (Suarez) is the hero in his country, the ball was going in, he stopped it and I missed the penalty. That's the way it is.”
Ghana's Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac said that miss had given Uruguay an advantage in the shoot-out. “We had this penalty and the chance to reach the semifinals but we didn't get it,” he said.
“In the shoot-out Uruguay had a psychological advantage.”
Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson revealed he and his teammates had been trying to support their striker. “We were consoling him (in the dressing rooms), it's a game so we need to forget about it,” he said before complaining about Suarez's actions.
“You can see from the beginning that it's unfair on our side, the referee should have allowed the goal but he gave a penalty. It's very unfortunate but it's also part of the game, you have to accept it and correct the mistake next time.
"Many things happen in football but you have to understand that little decisions can change every situation and that happened today."
“If the referee would have given a goal, we could have qualified for the semis, but he didn't, he gave a penalty. I'm a little bit down but I'm also happy for myself. There's nothing we can do now, we have to take it out of our minds.”
First Published: Jul 03, 2010 23:56 IST