Saturday, July 10, 2010

Quarter-final 2: Ghana 1-1 Uruguay, Uruguay win on penalties.

This was a quality match between two well balanced teams. Uruguay produced the better openings during much of the first half, Ghana having their impressive goalkeeper Kingson to thank on a number of occasions, including one that simply smacked straight off his forehead. But as the half wore on Ghana were the ones forcing the pace - the best of which saw Boateng go off on a mazy run, ending with a nice inside pass to Gyan, who should have done better with the shot. Well, either that or Vorsah's header from a corner, which was powered just wide.

As the match drifted to half-time the game suddenly sparked into life. Muntari received the ball in space, a long way from goal. Uruguay, seemingly unaware of the danger and probably thinking about the half-time break themselves, switched off for a moment and Muntari unleashed a venomous swerving drive that put them a goal to the good, with what proved to be the last kick of the half. Muntari had almost been sent home for being a disruptive influence but had been drafted into the side due to the absence of the suspended Ayew. And how he had rewarded Rajevac.

The lead wasn't to last long however. Not long after the start of the second half Uruguay were awarded a free-kick after Pantsil had scythed down a rampaging Fucile. Forlan converted a quality free-kick that (as the Jabulani ball is wont to do) deceived Kingson in the air. Questions should be asked of Kingson's positioning but ultimately the scores were level.

The second half involved much to-ing and fro-ing. Chances were created and spurned on both sides and it was an engaging game that could easily have gone either way. Appiah's experience was introduced in place of Inkoom and Muntari gave way for the exciting young striker Adiyiah. For Uruguay Abreu (whose goal had qualified them for the World Cup) was given a run in place of Cavani. Both sides pressed for the advantage that would negate the need for extra-time but it wasn't to be.

Extra-time involved a number of mistakes as both sets of players were clearly fatigued, indeed for Ghana it was their second game in a row that went to extra-time. But try as both sets of players might any reasonable chances were fluffed and a penalty shoot-out seemed likely.

Then in injury-time in extra-time Ghana were awarded a free kick. The ball was floated in and two shots were sent goalwards, Appiah's first was legitimately blocked on the line, then the follow up header was going in only for Suarez to save it with his hands. The referee had no option but to give him a red card and award a penalty. With the last kick of the game Gyan had the opportunity to send Ghana into the semi-finals and make the whole of Africa happy. He had scored two from the spot in the group stages but this time, with all the pressure on him, he crashed the ball into the crossbar and Uruguay had a life-line.

Uruguay were to be the first team to take penalty kicks - Forlan putting the first one in with ease. Next up was Gyan, whose heart must have been racing after his penalty miss at the end of extra-time. He showed great courage and determination and smashed it into the top right hand corner, as he hoped against hope that his side could win the shoot-out and avenge his miss. Both countries slotted their second penalty. Then Uruguay converted their 3rd and Mensah with a terrible penalty missed for Ghana. Uruguay gave them an opportunity to get back in it as Pereira blasted over but Adiyiah also had his penalty saved. Abreu could send Uruguay into the semis if he scored his penalty - and he did. It was a cheeky dink straight down the middle to send Uruguay into their first semi-final since 1970, and a semi-final spot still eluded the African nations. The only sour note for Uruguay was that Suarez and Fucile would be suspended for the semi, and Lugano would likely not be fit.

Gyan was inconsolable. He was sobbing and sobbing and sobbing in what were heartbreaking pictures.

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