Uruguay beat Ghana but withdrew from the World Cup on late goals

There are no winners in revenge missions. The sentiment demanded that Ghana right the wrongs in their 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Uruguay and atone for Luis Suárez’s last-minute handball injury on the line. But Uruguay, and Suárez in particular, have no time for such romantic notions of redemption. Ghana were again eliminated after missing a penalty but they had the consolation that, although Suárez netted two, it was South Korea and not Uruguay who made it to the last 16 with Portugal.

Uruguay did not react well. As the Ghanaians sat on the pitch in resigned weariness, the Uruguayan players surrounded idiosyncratic German referee Daniel Siebert at the final whistle, furious at not getting at least one of the two huge penalty calls in the second half. . Ghanaian fans, then resigned to their exit, seemed to benefit immensely. And while José Giménez raged at Siebert, Suárez cried on the bench.

It was a match haunted by memories of the events at Soccer City 12 years ago, and more specifically that moment in the last minute of extra time. The image was still there, a perverted footballing pietà, hovering in peripheral vision: Stephen Appiah in the foreground having had the initial effort blocked (which was probably offside, although nobody talks about it), John Mensah and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera falling together with Andrés Scotti, Dominic Adiyiah stretching after directing the loose ball towards goal, Jorge Fucile with an arched back and a raised left fist having missed his manipulation attempt, and Suárez with his arms outstretched, jumping to his right to recover the ball. It’s the Pisgah of African football, the moment he saw the promised land of a World Cup semi-final but was turned down.

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Billboards across Accra this week depicted the incident with the slogan: “REVENGE! : Let’s support the Black Stars. That the Ghanaians are still feeling the pain of that moment was highlighted by the pre-match press conference. Suárez, with a characteristic sense of provocative showmanship, appeared alone and seemed completely unimpressed by a Ghanaian journalist saying that many in his country saw him as “the devil himself” (adding “el diablo” , lest there be confusion) and wanted to “retire” him. He doesn’t regret it, he says. He had been punished. He had received a red card and missed the semi-final as a result. It wasn’t his fault that Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty.

Was it an elaborate liquidation? Suárez had played just 81 minutes in the group stage and was noticeably poor, managing only one shot on goal (off target). But if it was a massive mind game, Uruguay took it to extremes, naming Suárez captain. Was that on the mind of André Ayew, the only Ghanaian Al Janoub player to play in the 2010 quarter-final, as he came forward to take a penalty?

Because, of course, there has been controversy over penalties, a lot. How not to be? Uruguay keeper Sergio Rochet clearly tripped Mohammed Kudus but Ayew was ruled offside first. When VAR proved to have been played split by Mathías Olivera’s heel, the awarding of a penalty was automatic. Ayew’s kick, however, was dismal and easily saved.

Then, just before the hour mark, Darwin Núñez fell under a challenge from Daniel Amartey. Siebert did not give it, was asked to check the screen and, exceptionally, decided not to overturn the decision, reporting that he had seen a slight touch on the ball. It was a decision that proved vital for Uruguay’s goal difference; if it had been given and converted, they would have crossed over. Edinson Cavani had another decent cry in stoppage time as news reached that South Korea had beaten Portugal and the match had become a frenzied slugfest, all form gone, just one attack after the other.

For Ghana, who were two points clear at kick-off, the moment was there, but the moment was missed. There was a sense of inevitability to what followed. Few teams are as good as Uruguay at feeling the emotional pulse of a match. As Ghana faltered, Uruguay surged. Mohammed Salisu had already cleared Núñez’s line when Suárez’s shot was half blocked by Lawrence Ati-Zigi. The ball was probably spinning anyway, but Giorgian de Arrascaeta nodded over the line from close range.

Giorgian of Arrascaeta

Six minutes later he had his second, volleying with precision after a smart shot from Suárez. He may be 35 years old, the belly is starting to show under the shirt but, although much is taken, much remains: there is still magic in his brain and his touch, and perhaps especially when the fans of opposition draw blood.

And the fury, so strangely absent against South Korea, was back. He raged against the officials, got stung in Salisu and put his body in the way to win free-kicks before being pulled off after 65 minutes. He had beaten them again.

The devil, perhaps, is never really done, but this time it wasn’t enough. A photo of him sobbing on the big screen drew elated mockery. Ghana was out – but at least they took the devil with them.

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