World Cup post-game: Uruguay wins in penalties
Uruguay moved on to the 2010 FIFA World Cup semifinals, breaking the hearts of African soccer fans by beating Ghana 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw Friday.
It cannot be understated: Pure euphoria for Uruguay and absolute heartbreak for Ghana.
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In a match with incredible drama and an unforgettable finish, Uruguay finds itself in the semifinals after a series of misfortunes for the only remaining African team.
Ghanaian star striker Asamoah Gyan had a chance to win the match for Ghana with a penalty kick in the final seconds of extra time after Luis Suarez was sent off for handling the ball on the line. (And essentially saving the game for the South Americans. More on that later.)
With the pressure of the continent on his shoulders, Gyan hit the crossbar, sending the game into penalty kicks.
Then, John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah's poorly taken penalties, which were stopped by Uruguayan goalkeeper Fernando Muslera, left the door open for Sebastian Abreu to convert the winning spot kick.
After the outcome, Ghanaian players openly sobbed on the field even as the fans at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg blew on their vuvuzelas in appreciation of their gutsy performance.
Ghana carried the hopes of an entire continent after the other five African nations failed to advance out of the group stage. The Black Stars continued their impressive play into the second round, where they dispatched the United States in extra time, but they did not have lady luck on their side Friday in Johannesburg.
There were opportunities, however, and not just Gyan's missed penalty.
Both teams had chances to take the lead through 120 minutes of play. There were open headers that flew just wide of the posts and blistering strikes that required quick reaction saves from both goalkeepers, Richard Kingson of Ghana and Fernando Muslera of Uruguay.
Only Ghana's Sulley Muntari's 35-yard shot in the first half and Uruguay's Diego Forlan's free kick in the second interval found the back of the mesh.
As for Suarez, one of the standout rookies at this tournament, he may be credited for keeping Uruguay's World Cup journey alive with his intentional hand ball on the goal-line, but he won't be able to help his team in the semifinal game against the Netherlands on Tuesday. He'll be watching from the stands, thanks to his suspension.
What this result means
Uruguay, playing in its 11th World Cup tournament, moves on to the semifinals for the first time in 40 years. The two-time champions will take on the Netherlands on Tuesday in Cape Town.
The Dutch downed Brazil 2-1 in the other quarter-final Friday.
The other semifinal will be decided Saturday as Argentina plays Germany and Spain faces Paraguay.
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The turning point
Ghana may have missed twice in the shootout, but they would not have been in that situation in the first place had Gyan made his penalty kick in the closing seconds of extra time. Had he scored instead of ringing it off the crossbar, Ghana would have become the first African nation to reach a World Cup semifinal.
The winning goal
With his squad leading 3-2 in the penalty shootout, Uruguay's fifth kicker, substitute Sebastian Abreu, had a chance to give his team the victory. He stepped up and instead of blasting the ball with power, he deftly chipped it over Kingson, who dove in the wrong direction.
Man of the match
Striker Diego Forlan continued his strong tournament for Uruguay, adding his third goal of the World Cup with a swinging free kick in the 55th minute and setting the tone in the penalty shootout by making the first shot.
The Uruguayan perspective
"To be among the four best [teams]in the world, there are no words for that. We felt we were going to faint with each penalty." — Uruguay striker Diego Forlan.
The Ghanaian perspective
"I'm very proud. We managed to achieve a great result and the whole of Africa supported us. We didn't deserve to lose in such a way and it's difficult to talk about it at the moment. We had bad luck that's all I can say." — Ghana manager Milovan Rajevac.