Ghana 1-1 Uruguay; Uruguay win 4-2 on pens

Posted: July 2, 2010 in World Cup
Tags: , , , , ,

That – was – brilliant.

You can keep your Brazil getting knocked out (WTF happened there?), Argentina v Germany or Spain probably pissing on Paraguay; that was proper football. Two teams who had already exceeded expectations, with a chance to make history. Make no mistake; there is no sense of entitlement about either of these sides. Both teams went for it hell-for-leather, and it was one of those rare games where the cliche is true: it was a shame that someone had to lose. It would have made a hell of a final, it was a minor classic – and I feel like I’m underselling it by using the word “minor”.

There’s just so much to talk about, I could be here all night. Firstly I have to say I’m gutted for Ghana. Tonight was the first time I really noticed the “Africa is behind you” feeling, and good god but they were so close to being the first African side to make a semi-final. They contributed hugely to this match and were the better team for about 50 minutes, until Uruguay equalised somewhat out of the blue and then it became a much more even contest.

Both sides deserve so much credit for it; at no stage was there a moment of consolidation or “let’s just take a breather, shall we?”. Just waves and waves of attack from speedy, skilful footballers, all of whom were looking to take a swift route to goal by turning the defence around rather than meticulously picking holes. Shots were fired in from all distances, tackles slid into, fouls committed, yellow cards flashed, saves made – and that’s to say nothing of what actually happened in the game.

In a nutshell: Muntari scored a 40 yard belter for Ghana in the last moments of the first half, taking everyone by surprise by swinging a left boot at the ball and watching Muslera take a step too far in the wrong direction and fail to get near it as it sailed into the net. Incredible goal, such a sweet strike. Then, after about an hour, Forlan wellied a freekick from the angle that Kingson should have saved, but he too had made the fatal mistake of moving in the wrong direction prior to the shot being struck. 1-1. Both sides had more opportunities than I can remember – although Uruguay’s were probably the clearer-cut – but neither could take advantage. Extra-time. More chances, more great play. 120th minute of the game – scramble in the Uruguay goalmouth. Muslera half-punches, the ball rebounds to a Ghanaian who smashes it goalwards from six yards – straight into Luis Suarez’s shins. Ball pops up, is headed goalwards. First defender misses, Suarez punches off the line. Red card. Penalty. Up steps Asamoah Gyan, two-from-two in the World Cup so far. Chance to be a hero. Steps up. Blasts it. Hits the bar. Full-time. Penalty shoot-out part 2.

Breathe. You see? I tried to boil it down into a few sentences and gave you a bit of a monster paragraph instead.

Asamoah Gyan. I can’t believe you took that first penalty in the shootout. I cannot believe that. We’d all just watched Forlan smash in his usual perfect penalty, and then there’s the Ghanaian number 3 striding forward to take his side’s first penalty. Huge, enormous cojones. Balls that would weigh down an ox. I still cannot believe it. Can you honestly imagine any Englishman stepping forward in that situation? I think it would have been hard enough to get someone to take that pen at the end of extra-time, such is the national brainmelt that the P word seems to induce.

Never before have I wanted someone to score a penalty so badly, who wasn’t playing for United or England. I was desperate for him to nail it, the anguish he must have felt at having missed five minutes previously still coursing through his veins. The whole world watching. He stepped up. Leaned back. Foot through the ball and in the top motherfucking corner. Belting penalty. I almost exploded with what I reckon was probably pride.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to last – Mensah never looked like scoring. As soon as we realised he was going to take a one-step-and-hit pen, we moaned in horror. Why does anyone do this? Surely it’s much harder to generate power, and disguise your body-shape prior to the shot. As it was he might as well have told Muslera where he was going to place it – and even then the Uruguayan keeper almost dived past it, it was that bad. Jesus. One-step “run up”. The best penalty taker I’ve seen live was James Beattie. He’d put the ball on the spot and stand over it waiting for the ref’s whistle. As soon as it blew, he’d turn away from goal, stride to the D, spin and BLAST THE BASTARD into the corner. If you’d got a hand to it you’d lose an arm. Mensah – learn from the master.

The next wasn’t much better, and Muslera got a hand to it again. It fell to Sebastian Abreu to apply the knock-out blow – which he also did in big-balls style, chipping the ball cheekily down the middle as Kingson dived aside. These South Americans are a bit good at pressure penalties, it seems; witness Oscar Cardozo’s jog, jog, jog, slide-into-corner effort to clinch Paraguay’s place in the quarters.

It felt harsh on Ghana. Poor Gyan looked completely inconsolable at the end, but he should be proud of himself for having the guts not only to volunteer for that first penalty but then to bury it in immaculate fashion. Maybe for a split second he thought, as I did, that he’d ballooned it.

Is a one-game ban enough for Suarez? I’ve read online a few people saying how disgusted they are at Suarez’ cheating to punch the ball off the line. I don’t buy that. It doesn’t happen every week in football but certainly once or twice a season. I suppose if you boil it down it is gamesmanship, denying Ghana a certain goal and a certain win given how long was left. His handball essentially meant that they had to “score” twice.

But that’s just football. If the officials had missed it, I’d feel different. But he knew what he was doing, and he sacrificed himself for the team. I’d expect anyone else to do the same in all honesty.

What great drama. The most memorable game of the World Cup so far, and, with Netherlands’ surprise win over Brazil (two QF exits in last two World Cups… could be the new England), a cracking start to the World Cup crunch.

Argentina v Germany has got a lot to live up to.

  1. […] Look no further than the glorious quarter final between Uruguay and Ghana. All of Africa behind the Black Stars, this match had it all with two teams going for it. Throw in two brilliant goals, the Luis Suarez “Hand Of God”, Gyan’s missed penalty, and a dramatic shootout, and you have a classic. Like I said. […]

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