Uruguay win 4-2 on penalties
Uruguay beat Ghana 4-2 on penalties after the sides had played out a 1-1 draw in the World Cup quarter-final. John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah missed for Ghana to send the Uruguayans through to a semi-final meeting with the Netherlands. Sulley Muntari had given Ghana the lead on the stroke of half time before Diego Forlan levelled with a freekick 10 minutes after the break. Luis Suarez saw red for handball deep into extra time before Asamoah Gyan hit the bar with the resultant penalty.
Suarez stung the palms of Richard Kingson after 10 minutes after cutting in from the left. It was Kingson’s head that was stinging eight minutes later, using it to block the ball after John Mensah deflected Edinson Cavani’s flicked header towards goal. Kingson made a superb save after 26 minutes when Suarez rolled Isaac Vorsah and smashed the ball goalwards. Ghana broke quickly after 31 minutes, with Kevin-Prince Boateng beating his man then squaring for Asamoah Gyan who stroked just wide from 16 yards. After 38 minutes, Muntari got his head to a cross at the back post but he steered it across goal and wide. In the 45th minute, Samuel Inkoom’s cross was met by Boateng with a bicycle kick but he connected with his ankle and it flew off target. In the last seconds of two minutes of first half stoppage time, Ghana were ahead through Muntari. Receiving the ball 35 yards from goal, Muntari turned and fired a low shot that caught Fernando Muslera wrongfooted and nestled a yard inside the bottom corner.
After 10 minutes of the second half, Uruguay were level. Forlan curled a freekick from five yards away from the corner of the area and it flew past Kingson who had started to move in the opposite direction. Three minutes later, Gyan cut in and shot through a defender’s legs but Muslera parried. After 63 minutes, Forlan crossed and it was met past the far post by Suarez who could only volley into the side netting. Kingson was called into action 20 minutes from time when Suarez shot powerfully from an angle and the keeper did well to push it over. He saved well again after 78 minutes, pushing round the post after Suarez flicked on Forlan’s freekick.
Uruguay were unfortunate not to be given a penalty in the first period of extra time when John Paintsil tripped Sebastian Abreu as a cross came over but the referee was unsympathetic. In the 114th minute, Forlan flashed a volley from an angle just wide with teammates better placed centrally. Boateng was inches from a winner two minutes from time, heading just wide and he then forced Muslera into a save with a deflected shot from a tight angle. Ghana were given a penalty in time added on to extra time, when Suarez saw red for handling Adiyiah’s header on the line after a goalmouth scramble. Gyan stepped up for his third spot kick at this World Cup but hit the bar, sending the game to penalties with the last kick of the game. Mensah and Adiyiah had their efforts saved by Muslera either side of Maxi Pereira blasting over the bar, leaving Abreu to step up and coolly dink home the winning penalty.
The Ghanaians took a long time to settle, their inexperienced team perhaps overawed by the occasion. Uruguay looked more at home with Forlan at the hub of everything they did and Suarez proving a physical handful upfront. A headed chance from a corner by Vorsah on the half hour seemed to spur Ghana into life, with an unsettled Uruguay aiding their cause when they failed to adapt to an enforced defensive change. With Diego Godin out injured and replaced by Mauricio Victorino, their first choice centre-back partnership was completely removed when captain Diego Lugano limped off after 37 minutes. For the rest of the first half, Ghana were rampant and deservedly went ahead through Muntari. Muslera will ask himself how he was beaten from that range, with the ball not even nestling right inside the post. His only excuse can if he was unsighted but he surely had time to react better than he did.
It was Boateng who was involved in the best of Ghana’s play, bursting forward at will and running with the ball at his feet. The new recruit to the Black Stars has not always enjoyed the best reputation after failing to settle at Tottenham and enduring a mixed time at Portsmouth, and was vilified before the World Cup in his birth land Germany after his tackle in the FA Cup final sidelined Michael Ballack. Yet Boateng has been one of the unlikely stars of the tournament and has fast become a key part of the Ghanaian side. With Michael Essien missing injured, Stephen Appiah only fit enough for cameos and Muntari’s typical lack of diplomacy limiting his appearances, Boateng has raised his game and stepped up to the plate when they needed a spark. There are still too many occasions when he makes the wrong decision in possession, but no one can doubt how willing he has been to make things happen.
The game had lacked drama through most of the 120 minutes, with plenty of tired legs on show as the game reached the latter stages. The last moments of extra time and the penalties that followed more than made up for that. Ghana had already had one effort cleared off the line seconds before the penalty was awarded, and Suarez stuck up a hand to earn himself a red card but give his side one last hope. Gyan had already scored against Serbia and Australia from the penalty spot but his powerful shot clipped the top of the bar, denying his team a last gasp qualification for the semi-finals. To Gyan’s credit, he stepped up to find the top corner with Ghana’s first penalty in the shootout. It was Mensah who will be most disappointed with his spot kick, taking just one step of run up before shooting tamely at Muslera. Young Adiyiah was also unsuccessful but showed real bravery to step up for such an important kick at just 20-years-old.
Ghana were the favourite of the neutrals for this game, the only remaining African side in the tournament. But for that late, late penalty miss, they would have got through. That does not hide the fact that they are a top class striker away from being a very good team. Gyan has three goals at this World Cup but two have been penalties. He works tirelessly for the team leading the line, but the Ghanaians need a natural goalscorer alongside him to step up to the next level. Uruguay now face the Netherlands and will do so without their biggest goal threat in Suarez. Forlan has been their main inspiration throughout this tournament but likes to come from deeper, and Oscar Tabarez would be wise to bring in a direct replacement for Suarez rather than pushing Forlan further forward. That Suarez would be free to play in a potential final will rankle with the Ghanaians, after his blatant cheating robbed them of what would have been a definite winner through the unfortunate Adiyiah.
Uruguay – Muslera, Lugano (Scotti 38), Fucile, Victorino, Pereira, Perez, Arevalo Rios, Alvaro Fernandez (Lodeiro 46), Cavani (Abreu 76), Suarez, Forlan
Ghana – Kingson, Sarpei, Pantsil, John Mensah, Inkoom (Appiah 73), Vorsah, Annan, Muntari (Adiya 88), Boateng, Gyan, Asamoah