Ghana, the sole African nation in the quarter finals, suffered a heartbreak as they went down against Uruguay in the penalty shootout, after the scoreline was leveled 1-1 by the end of stipulated 120 minutes of play. Sulley Muntari gave the Black Stars a first half lead, which was canceled out by Diego Forlan’s wonder strike in the second half. The Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera kept his nerves in check to produce two wonderful saves in the shootout, to propel the South Americans into the semis for the first time since 1970.
Uruguay started the match as the more dominant of the two teams, as their talismanic strike partnership of Forlan-Suarez posed early threats for the Ghanaian defense. Suarez wasted a golden opportunity to put his team ahead in the 11th minute, when he dribbled past one of the Ghanaian defenders before shooting the ball straight to ‘keeper Richard Kingson. Seven minutes later, Kingson once again did admirably well to block a deflected ball off John Mensah from a Forlan corner kick. At the 25th minute mark, Kingson came up with another acrobatic finger-tipped save to deny Suarez’s shot, which seemed destined for the top of near post.
Ghana got their first realistic opportunity in the 42nd minute from their first corner of the match, but Vorsah’s header went agonizingly close to the near post. A minute later, the Ghanaian hero of the last match, Kevin Prince Boateng, dribbled past four Uruguayan players in a moment of brilliance to lay the ball for Gyan, but Gyan fumbled as the ball spun off his right foot for a goal kick. However, Ghana’s persistence finally paid off just at the stroke of half time, as Sulley Muntari hammered a powerful screamer from 35 yards out which deceived Muslera, to give Ghana the breakthrough.
Uruguay unleashed attack after attack at the start of the second half; ten minutes after the break, the South Americans got the equalizer through in-form Diego Forlan. Uruguay earned free-kick on the edge of the Ghana box when Fucile was brought down unfairly by John Panstil. Diego Forlan’s measured delivery took an astounding dip at the very last minute to beat Kingson, and ended up kissing the top of the far post. Ghana had a decent penalty shout turned down at the hour mark, when Alevaro Rios and Maxi Perreira brought down Boateng inside the Uruguay box, but the referee waved play on. A couple of minutes later, Gyan wasted a set piece from 25 yards out by firing it over and wide. By this time the match turned exciting with both teams showing attacking intents to break the deadlock. Forlan almost grabbed his second goal of the night with just over ten minutes to go for the finalwhistle, but Kingson was alert as ever to avert the danger. The stipulated 90 minutes ended, with both teams sharing the honours.
The thirty minutes of extra time saw a flurry of attacks from the teams, but the deadlock could not be broken. Kwadwo Asamoah tried his luck with a long ranger, but the ball sailed over Muslera’s goal-bar. The Portuguese referee turned down another penalty shout, this time from Uruguay, when Panstil appeared to have unduly muscled Abreu inside the box. Ghana threatened to break the stalemate with ten minutes to go before the final whistle, but Gyan shoot a free header over the bar from a very close range. In an action reply of the incident, Boateng’s header went tantalizingly wide of Muslera’s near post with just a couple of minutes to the tiebreakers.
At the death end of the match, Panstil delivered a measured set piece into the Uruguayan box prompting a goal-line block from one of the defenders; the rebound fell to Appiah, and his goal-bound header was once again saved off the goal-line by Suarez, this time with his hands. The referee did not hesitate to dish out a red card for the striker, and pointed to the spot. Gyan stepped up to take the historic penalty which would earn his nation a semifinal berth, but could only hit the top of the bar with his attempt.
Uruguay’s Maxi Pereira missed the third spot kick for his side, but Muslera produced two consecutive saves from Mensah and Adiyiah, before Sebastian Abreu calmly slotted past the fifth Uruguayan shot into Kingson’s net to register a memorable win for the team which was the last country to qualify for the main event. Uruguay will now face the Dutch challenge in the first semifinal of the World Cup on 7th of June in Cape Town.
TheHardTackle’s Player Of The Match:
Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
He scored the equalizer with a lovely swerving delivery, and came close to breaking the deadlock with some delicious set peices. He was a constant threat to the Ghanaian defense throughout the match. The captain cool was inspirational and led by example by calmly slotting in the first of the penalty shots in the shootout.
Other Key Performers:
Luis Suarez (Uruguay): The little dynamite looked lively in Uruguayan attack, and played his heart out as always. Though his bizarre handball off the goal-line earned him the marching orders, it was this clearance that kept Uruguay in the hunt till the tie-breakers.
Fernando Muslera (Uruguay): He kept his nerve to produce a couple of penalty saves in the tiebreakers. Muslera can hardly be held responsible for Muntari’s opener.
Prince Boateng (Ghana): The midfielder played his role to perfection as a play maker. He linked well with the strikers while attacking, and tracked back deep to help out defenders to regain possession. He was unlucky not to get his name on the score-sheet.
TheHardTackle’s Referee Report Card:
Olegario Benquerenca (POR) – Grade: B-
The Portugese official had an average game. He was perhaps a bit lenient while dealing with rash tackles, but did well to implant his authority in the match by dishing out six yellows and one red card. He had no less than four penalty shouts turned down, two of which – one each for Uruguay and Ghana – deserved a penalty. The good thing is that he was consistent with these penalty decisions.
URUGUAY 1(4) – 1(2) GHANA
Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg
Uruguay Starting Line-up: (4-3-1-2): Muslera, Maxi Pereira, Diego Lugano (Scotti 38’), Victorino, Fucile, Arevalo Rios, Diego Perez, Alvaro Fernandez (Lodeiro 46’), Forlan, Cavani (Abreu 76’), Suarez
Cautions: Fucile (20’), Arevalo (48’), Perez (59’)
Sent Offs: Suarez (121’)
Scorers: Forlan (55’)
Ghana Starting Line-up: (4-2-3-1): Kingson, Pantsil, John Mensah, Vorsah, Sarpei, Annan, K-P Boateng, Inkoom (Appiah 74’), Asamoah, Gyan, Muntari (Adiyiah 88’)
Cautions: Panstil (54’), Sarpei (77’), Mensah (93’)
Sent Offs: None
Scorers: Muntari (45’)