Uruguay and Ghana fought tooth and nail throughout 120 minutes of football, but it was the South Americans who booked their place in the World Cup semi finals following a penalty shootout.
Uruguay will face the Netherlands for a place in the World Cup Final after a dramatic quarter final win over Ghana on penalties. The sides drew one apiece after extra time with Asamoah Gyan missing a last gasp penalty that would have sent the Africans through. Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera saved two spot kicks in the shootout to emerge as his country’s hero, though star striker Luis Suarez will no doubt receive plaudits in his homeland for taking one for the team.
Jubilant with the Jubulani
Both sides struck with well hit efforts in normal time, though cynics immediately put the goals down to the unpredictable nature of the much maligned Jubulani. First, Inter Milan midfielder Sullay Muntari was given all the time and space in the world to fire on goal from 30 yards. His effort went low into the net past a rather flat footed Fernando Muslera who really should have been more alert.
Uruguay had no option but to attack in the second half and pressed heavily early on. They were rewarded when talisman Diego Forlan fired home a stunning free kick. There may be questions over Richard Kingson’s positioning but Forlan’s effort moved a lot in the air, as per the course with the ball.
Both sides had their chances to win the game in normal time but couldn’t be seperated, and extra time was relatively uneventful until the very last minute.
Hero to villain
Two of the tournament’s biggest stars, Asamoah Gyan and Luis Suarez, were at the centre of possibly the most dramatic final minute of extra time ever seen at the World Cup. Ghana were awarded a free kick on the right hand side of the area, and after some pinball around the six yard box, Dominic Adiyiah’s was goalbound. However Suarez, who was on the goal line, kept the ball out with a save that Muslera would have been proud of. Referee Olegario Benquerenca had no option but to send Suarez off and award Ghana a penatly.
Suarez’s decision was instantly justified as Gyan, who had scored a winning penalty in the group stages against Serbia and also one against Australia, stepped up and rattled the crossbar with his spot kick. The ball bounced over for a goal kick with the referee immediately signalling for the end of the game.
The ever reliable Forlan drew first blood in the shootout before Gyan stepped up to level things with a neat effort that would have sufficed minutes earlier. Victorino, Appiah, Scotti all scored before Ghana captain John Mensah saw his tame effort easily saved by Muslera. Ghana were given some respite when Maxi Pereira skied his effort, giving Dominic Adiyiah a chance to restore parity. Muslera again guessed correctly though, saving low to his right and allowing Sebastián Abreu to send his side through with a cheeky dink down the middle.
Uruguay head into the semi finals as rank underdogs against the Netherlands, especially considering they will be without top scorer Suarez. He will be joined on the sidelines by Digeo Fucile who picked up his second yellow card of the tournament meaning an automatic one match suspension. There will also be injury concerns over skipper Diego Lugano who limped off in the first half.
For Ghana, they may be out of the tournament in the cruelest of fashions but they did African football proud and can hold their heads up high.
Fingers crossed that the rest of the games are this exciting!