(RESULTS: Netherlands 2-1 Brazil; Uruguay 1-1 Ghana [4-2 on penalties])
Goals Of The Day – Sulley Muntari (Ghana), Diego Forlan (Uruguay)
The Ghanaian midfielder collected the ball from a teammate in the centre of the Uruguayan half, found acres of space in front of him with the defenders lurking at the edge of the box, and let loose a powerful, left footed 35-yard shot out of nowhere, sending the Uruguay custodian Fernando Muslera the wrong way. Not to be left behind, Diego Forlan unleashed a beauty of a free kick from just outside the left of the Ghana box, which saw the ball travel straight and slightly dip into the back of the net, evading the fingers of a wrong-footed Kingson.
Thriller of the day – Uruguay vs Ghana
The second match of the day was engrossing and aggressive, with both the teams playing for a win. Neither side adopted a cautious approach, and their attacking intent was evident throughout the game. The players from both teams worked hard and tirelessly to win the ball back, and tried all possible tactics and formations to put their side ahead; the goals scored in this fixture were procured by individual brilliance, and the goalkeeper was flummoxed by the direction of the shot in both cases. The match went into extra time, and Ghana appeared more likely to repeat their heroic feat against USA. The match ended in dramatic fashion in the last minute, with Suarez seeing red for obstructing a goal bound shot with his hand; but in a shocking turn of events, Gyan failed to convert the resulting penalty, to hand Uruguay a lifeline. Uruguay made use of the opportunity to beat Africa’s last hopes on penalties.
Hero of the day – Team Oranje
After being run over by Brazil in the first half, van Marwijk’s boys came back strongly in the last 45 minutes of the game to turn the tables on their South American counterparts. While van Bommel and de Jong neutralized the attacking threat of Kaka and Dani Alves, the sturdy defense reduced Luis Fabiano and Robinho to mere spectators. On the other half, Robben wreaked complete havoc on the right side of the field, earning his side several free kicks as frustrated defenders fouled him; van Persie was invisible throughout the game, but Dirk Kuyt pulled his socks and performed both offensive and defensive duties with equal aplomb. However, it was Wesley Sneijder who once again engineered Netherlands’ victory, forcing an own goal by Melo and scoring a header off Kuyt’s assist. The Oranje are now serious contenders for the World Cup crown, and will be looking to break the 1974 and 1978 finals jinx.
‘Balanced’ team of the day – Brazil
In the first half of a highly entertaining quarterfinal, which witnessed many a battle between the Brazilian attack wizards and the industrious Dutch defensive unit, the Samba boys not only showed the world their dazzling offensive skills, but also their incredible ball possession abilities. Despite the efforts of the Dutch defenders, aided by the hard tackling duo of van Bommel and De Jong, to curtail the free flowing football of their opponents, the ball seemed to stick like glue to the feet of the South Americans. Robinho, Kaka, Maicon and Fabiano were hassled by two or three orange-clad players on occasion, but they always managed to regain balance, and along with it the ball, which would always end up in the Netherlands box. However, a forgettable second half ensued balance for the Samba boys, which saw Netherlands turned the tables on them in a similar fashion.
Double agent of the day – Felipe Melo (Brazil)
The Fiorentina midfielder had a productive first half; along with Gilberto, he rankled the Dutch midfielders and denied Robben and Sneijder any space for creativity. Not only that, he set up the first goal for the Selecao- a defense splitting through ball in the centre of the field, which Robinho promptly converted to open Brazil’s account. However, the second half witnessed a different side of the hard man. He was continually frustrated by the marauding Dutch midfield, and his attempt to clear a Sneijder cross failed when Julio Cesar collided with him, scoring an own goal in the process. At a juncture where sensible playing was the need of the hour, Melo’s senseless studs-up stamp on Robben’s thigh earned him a send-off, and effectively ended all hopes of a Brazilian fight back.
Save of the day – Maarten Stekelenburg (Netherlands)
In an entertaining tussle on Brazil’s left wing, Robinho managed to somehow stand his ground despite pressure from two Dutch players, slipping in a neat pass to Fabiano before losing balance, who in turn back-heeled the ball into Kaka’s path. The Brazil number 10’s deft right-footed curler seemed destined for the back of the net, but Stekelenburg pulled off a stunning right-handed save to his left, to ensure that Netherlands still had a 1-0 deficit.
Savior of the day – Luiz Suarez (Uruguay)
The AJAX winger was a shadow of his belligerent self, failing to contribute much to Uruguay’s offensive game. He showed lack of control on the ball, didn’t have a proper link-up with the midfielders, and his shots on target didn’t trouble the goalkeeper much. In the fag end of extra time, Suarez turned into a villain for his team, when he blocked a goal bound shot with his hand in the last minute of extra time, and was given his marching orders. However, as it turned out, Gyan failed to convert the penalty, and Uruguay ended up winners in the penalty shoot-out. Football can be very funny at times, and Suarez’s handball will be heralded as a divine intervention, perhaps as the second Hand of God!
Villain of the day – Asamoah Gyan (Ghana)
The Black Stars were the more likely of the two teams to win in extra time, and their persistent efforts paid dividends in the last minute of extra time, when Muslera was unable to clear a cross, and a clear Ghanaian goal was blocked by Suarez with his hands. A penalty was instantly awarded to the African side, and the entire continent waited with bated breath for Africa’s last hope to conclude the formalities. Gyan, who had scored a goal in extra time against USA, seemed set to replicate his feat in this match. However, his penalty only hit the crossbar and bounced away to safety, much to the delight of the Uruguay players and the distraught disbelief of the Africans. Gyan was close to tears over his miss, as though he had a foreboding sense of impending doom. Uruguay prevailed in the penalty shootout to book a date with Netherlands in the semifinals, extinguishing the dreams of an entire continent. The parting shot of the game was a tearful and inconsolable Gyan, who will be haunted by his costly mistake for some time.
Scary moment of the day – Jorge Fucile(Uruguay)
The left back attempted a high leap in order to clear a long ball, but was nudged by Ghana’s Samuel Inkoom from behind. The slight push caused him to lose his poise in mid-air, and the defender landed head first on the field. Fortunately, he did not suffer any concussions or other injury, and was back on his feet in a few minutes. Replaying this action in slow motion would have given the viewer the impression that the fall was nearly fatal, and Fucile was clearly lucky to have escaped unscathed.