Black Stars fall agonizingly close

[URUGUAY-GHANA] Ghana’s quest to be the first African team to reach the World Cup semifinals fell agonizingly short in a excruciatingly spectacular encounter that Uruguay captured on penalty kicks, 4-2, after 120 minutes of drama ended tied, 1-1.

What we liked:

-- The endings that weren’t came nearly too fast to count in overtime stoppage time. It started on a free kick glanced to the back post, where Stephen Appiah and then Dominic Adiyiah fired point-blank shots. Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez blocked the first attempt with his legs, then threw up his arms to prevent Adiyiah’s follow-up effort from crossing the goal line.

As referee Olegario Benquerenca brandished the red card, his teammates rushed to console Suarez. He departed in tears, only to exult on his way to the tunnel when Asamoah Gyan’s thunderous penalty kick crashed into the top edge of the crossbar.

Thus a semifinal spot came down to a few shooters and the two goalkeepers. For Ghana, Richard Kingson had been magnificent, repelling everything directed his way  -- except for an extraordinarily wicked free kick that Diego Forlan swerved home in the 55th minute. Forlan’s goal matched one by Sulley Muntari; he belted a dipping shot of more than 30 yards past Uruguayan goalie Fernando Muslera in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.

-- In the shootout, Muslera dived left to save rather tame penalties from John Mensah and Adiyiah. Gyan bravely took and nailed Ghana’s first PK, but despite a badly skied attempt by Uruguay’s Maxi Pereira, Muslera’s two saved provided a 3-2 edge. Sebastian Abreu stepped up to take la Celeste’s fifth kick, and he disdainfully dinked it behind Kingson as the keeper guessed to his right.

-- The 84,017 fans packed into Johannesburg's Soccer City Stadium generated a raucous din for the entire match, eager to see Ghana make history as the first African World Cup semifinals. A deafening roar greeted Ghana’s goal two minutes into first-half stoppage time, but Uruguay refused to panic or be fazed by the bombardment of voices and vuzuzelas.

-- La Celeste also overcame the injury removal of defender and captain Diego Lugano, who landed clumsily dueling for a ball in the air and had to be replaced in the 38th minute. Andres Scotti, who had played only one minute in the first four matches and only nine of 18 qualifiers, stepped in to tangle with Gyan and steady a team that creaked a few times down the stretch.

Scotti also took and converted the third penalty, which provided a lead in the shootout Uruguay held until Abreu’s bit of cheek left Ghana two kicks behind with only one chance remaining.

-- As painful as it is for the World Cup to lose the last remaining African team, a return to glory of sorts for two-time champion (1930, 1950) Uruguay marks a renaissance symbolic of a deep South American contingent at this tournament, the departure of Brazil notwithstanding. It returns to the semifinals after a 40-year absence.

What we didn’t like ...

-- Suarez did what any player in the situation would have done; committing a deliberate hand ball and taking a straight red card to keep his team’s hopes alive. Slim is the possibility a penalty won’t be converted, yet the only alternative is to give up a goal and lose the game, and unfortunately for Ghana, Suarez’s illegal act paved the way for Uruguay to snatch victory.

The incident will undoubtedly re-ignite suggestions that a deliberate handball committed by a player standing on or near the goal line, when no other player can intervene, that prevents a goal should be punished by a red card and the awarding of the goal. Cases like that of Suarez, who was standing underneath the bar and blocked the ball just as it reached the plane of the goal line, are very rare; FIFA has steadfastly maintained that only when the ball legally crosses the line can a goal be awarded. (Or in the case of Frank Lampard's shot, that hit the bar and crossed the goal line, if the officials happen to be paying attention.)

U.S. fans will remember the infamous case of Torsten Frings, who was standing on the goal line when a partially blocked shot caromed off his arm in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinal against Germany. That ball, however, rebounded off goalkeeper Oliver Kahn and the ground, and may not have been actually going into the goal when Frings, deliberately or not, blocked it. Germany quickly cleared the ball from the goalmouth and U.S. protests were rebuffed.)

20 comments about "Black Stars fall agonizingly close".
  1. Steven SIegel, July 2, 2010 at 7:31 p.m.

    Anyone who saw this match will remember it and talk about it for the rest of their lives. What a devastating ending.

  2. Ted Hartwell, July 2, 2010 at 9:40 p.m.

    This was indeed heartbreaking. I hate to see a match decided on such a blatant cheat. I can't ever recall seeing a player essentially throw the ball out of the goal like that. All the ref's decisions were according to rules...the red card...the awarding of the penalty as a result. But the end result left me longing for a rule allowing a goal to be directly awarded in such cases, rather than going the penalty kick route. Ah well, as the Ghana coach said, "...this is football."

  3. mara droga, July 3, 2010 at 2:52 a.m.

    this was a great game! this is what soccer is about. ghana and uruguay in a battle to bring joy to their followers. both teams doing everything they could to get the win. here i read about how unfair the result was and wishes to change the rules. i am a usa fan, i saw the game objectively and saw both teams resorting to what worldly soccerfans refer to as savy. something which is needed to win a world cup. you are a winner if you got it. bocanegra, you should watch suarez and learn. usa, you should watch small, bancrupt, 3million populateduruguay get farther than mighty brazil and closer to their3rd world cup. the rules are what they are and suarez did what he had to to get his team through and he will suffer the consequence that the rules require in this sport. i saw the ghanian foward using violence outside the sport limits striking and intimidating a defender.another ghanian fouled a uruguay player unconcious. i saw the same foul called on uruguay yet forgiven to ghana, maybe the home, last african team factor. asked if technology should be brout into the game, th argentine goalkeeper said "no,soccer is the sport for smart people!" it was this lack of savy that has us out of thhe world cup. bocanegra and bradley, this is for you, with all due respect. dempsey and donovan have lots of it, just in case you still dont know what im talkin about.

  4. George Hoyt, July 3, 2010 at 7:56 a.m.

    Uruguay didn't win this match, they advanced. What's with all this "Suarez did what any player would do" crap? Lets honor the actual game here and call a cheat a cheat! I understand the difficulty in awarding a goal when the ball doesn't cross the line, but the laws of the game need to advance to protect the integrity of the sport. I'm too realistic to think this kind of foul play would stop, but fifa needs to not miss the forest through the trees and make some necessary adjustments to protect the integrity of our beautiful game.

  5. Kerry Ogden, July 3, 2010 at 8:18 a.m.

    I'm so happy to see Uruguay come away with the win. I think most of you for got that Ghana only got through on PK's which one was questionable. Suarez made a mistake and payed for it but in the end it gave the true winners their rightous win! Ghana's lady luck ran out!!!!!

  6. Garrett Isacco, July 3, 2010 at 9:20 a.m.

    After the 2002 World Cup, I got a DVD of the USA's performance. There is a head on shot of Fring's deliberatly sticking out his had to stop Berhalter's shop. The Eureopean ref who was quite biased toward Germany blew the call and cost the USA a tie. Sadly, the refereeing especially of USA matches has not gotten any better over that last 2 World Cups.

  7. Garrett Isacco, July 3, 2010 at 9:20 a.m.

    hand not had

  8. John Pepple, July 3, 2010 at 9:45 a.m.

    I don't feel a bit sorry for Ghana. I'm tired of players at the top level of the game who cannot score on a simple penalty kick. This should be routine. People who can pass accurately should be able to shoot accurately, and shooting accurately is all that it takes to convert a penalty kick. Just kick it near one of the posts. Why has this become so hard?

  9. John Hofmann, July 3, 2010 at 1:16 p.m.

    If I understand the rules correctly, just another ridiculous situation. In the field, the ref has to make a determination: if a handball is inadvertent or on purpose. If the latter, a card. Apparently, the ref had no choice with this goal line travesty. However, another example of FIFA rules craziness. If a ref can determine that it was a purposeful handball that prevented a goal, the goal should be awarded and the player also red-carded. No question. Consider this: if the same thing happens in a few days, in the world cup final, and a team is denied a victory on an absolute cheating situation, are you apologists for the Suarez debacle going to sit here and argue "it's just a great aspects of world football?" Baloney. For anyone to have the power to openly cheat, in front of perhaps 500 million people, and then be rewarded for it (via his team winning because of his action), seems a truly poor situation -- it needs to be dealt with differently, just like the rest of the goal line/goal area problems cropping up regularly (now) on the world stage.

  10. Power Dive, July 3, 2010 at 2:25 p.m.

    "Cheat" per Webster's Dictionary: 1. to deprive of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud; 2. to influence or lead by deceit, trick, or artifice. Just my opinion, diving is cheating. Suarez's handball was not cheating. There was no deceits, tricks, or frauds in what he did. He openly did a handball to prevent a goal, he had no intent to deceive or trick the ref. He did the crime and got the punishment. Players do "professional fouls" all the time in every sport. We can argue about changing the rule (e.g. a goal be automatically rewarded in that situation similar to goaltending in basketball) but I don't think that Suarez should be labeled as a cheat.

  11. Mark Walker, July 3, 2010 at 3:21 p.m.

    If you

  12. Mark Walker, July 3, 2010 at 3:27 p.m.

    If you think we have controversy now, give the refs the discretionary right to award make-up goals. As we have it, goals are the one part of the game that is entirely objective (either the whole ball crosses the line or not). Sure the refs sometimes get it wrong, but it's easy to tell if they screwed up. The remedy here is for FIFA to come down hard on Suarez for unsporting conduct. He should be banned for the remainder of the World Cup.

  13. Power Dive, July 3, 2010 at 4:17 p.m.

    If you believe that Suarez should be banned, I hope you believe that Fabiano on Brazil should have been banned for his two intentional handballs on a goal in bracket play. Or, any other forward that uses his hands in an attempt to score a goal (Maradona, Messi with Barcelona, Henry against Ireland, etc.). I would whole-heartedly argue that those forwards are greatly more unsporting than Suarez because they were attempting to decieve the ref (and succeeded). They all committed intentional handballs that directly affected whether a ball went in the net or not. I completely agree with your thoughts on giving refs the power to award goals.

  14. John Hofmann, July 3, 2010 at 6:34 p.m.

    Mr. Walker. Determing if there has been a foul on an offensive player in the goal box is a discretionary act by a referee. Foward encroachment by the goalie on a penalty kick is a discretionary decision by a ref. Whether the ball crossing the goal line is, unfortunately, a discretionary decision by a ref. If a hand-ball in the goal box is an inadvertent hand-ball or a purposeful hand-ball is a discretionary decision by the ref. If someone gets a red card or a yellow card for various inflractions, it's discretionary. My point is not to argue situations like the German goal-line "handball or not" against the U.S. in 2002. That would be a problem for a ref to award a goal in that case, since it was absolutely unclear (and apparently unviewable). However, when a definsive player, on the goal line, reaches up over his head and blocks a ball, that has reached the goal-line from crosses it, and gets rewarded for that by giving his team a chance to ultimately win the game a few moments later, rather than losing the game at that point, FIFA needs to strongly consider changing that. I can't recall this happening, so blatantly, on the world cup stage previously, but now that it has been imprinted on the minds of any soccer player worth his (or her) salt in the world, I would not be surprised if this does not happen again, whenever there is a similar situation at the end of a game or extra-time. If it is an obvious goal, that wins the game for the other team, there's nothing to lose for someone to use there hands. Heck, not playing in the next game...what's the difference. If Ghana had won Suarez wouldn't be playing in the next game anyway. Uruguay will cope, and there's always a chance they will continue to advance. As I already noted, if this happens in a final, and one country becomes world champion and the other is deprives of that on an obvious handball where the offending player doesn't, for all practical purposes, lose anything (do you think getting keep out of a game or two a few months later will make any difference?), I suspect the integrity of the game will be held up to question in a lot of places. That is certainly the case all over Africa today, I suspect, and probably by a lot of other people.

  15. David Crowther, July 3, 2010 at 9:23 p.m.

    All this outrage about the Suarez handball. How come no one talks about the incident just a few minutes earlier in which Pantsil brought Abreu down for a clear-cut penalty which the ref simply ignored? I can understand why most people would like to have seen an African team continue in the cup, but the reality is the better team went through; judged based both on what we saw last night as well as how both teams played throughout the tournament.

  16. Kerry Ogden, July 3, 2010 at 9:52 p.m.

    As it is Uruguay is going on. People can only assume that it was an intentional hand ball by Suarez, nobody will no, the ball was also close enough to his head that he could of headed the ball out, reguardless, the end result is that Ghana wasn't the winning team and that's Uruguay did a better job on the field!

  17. John Pepple, July 3, 2010 at 11:21 p.m.

    Ric Fonseca: Yes, I've taken penalty kicks. I was successful most of the time, because they were so easy. I didn't start playing soccer until I was in my 20s, and I found that taking a penalty kick was the easiest thing for me to learn. Most of the other skills were much harder. And that's why I can't understand why people who can perform miracles of control in other aspects of the game cannot do the simplest thing of all in soccer: shoot accurately when taking a penalty kick.

  18. George Hoyt, July 4, 2010 at 12:30 a.m.

    Who's to say Suarez didn't intend to decieve the referee? He didn't. Even if the Netherlands whups up on Uraguay, banning Suarez for one game, the whole tournament or the next ten international matches and a major fine for the Uraguain Futbal Assoc (I'm using hyperbole here,) he laughs as he walks into the lockeroom. I don't think Uraguay was the better team during regulation; but that's a moot point as is making or missing the pk as is missed calls throughout the game. I think the wording of most of the laws of the game is genius. Almost every law and judgement/addendum is qualified by "if in the opinion of the referee." I understand fifa's reticense to not take the ref's perogative away. I don't think banning a player is the solution either. I don't think the ref needs the power or the responsibility to award goals "willy nilly" either. Perhaps there is no way around the issue. Nevertheless, I'd like to see fifa address these issues in some way. There's no way he could of gotten that ball with his head. He needs to try out for the Uruguaian national volleyball team.

  19. John Singer, July 4, 2010 at 12:51 a.m.

    Rules are rules.
    Laws are laws.

    The Mr. Referee, has discretion within bounds. Suarez did what he did within and according to the Laws and rules.

    It's kinda like a throw in from your knees. As long as your toes are grounded, it's legal.

    IF Suarez had grasped the bar, and chested the ball out? What is your argument??
    There is no Law against holding either the post, or, the bar.
    Yes, Suarez should/ could have just headed the ball out. He took the definite not a goal route. He took his red and Ghana is gone.

    Within the rule and Laws of the Game.
    Please do not try and change the Laws retroactively, simply to be politically correct.

    Laws are laws. Rules are rules. Make them sacrosanct. Live by them.

    Studs up, FOul. Handled ball, FOul. SHorts pulling, Foul. Diving, flopping... Need I continue??

    Enforce the Laws and the rules will follow. Don't enforce, and well, you get discrecionary.


  20. I w Nowozeniuk, July 4, 2010 at 1:07 p.m.

    Missed PK resulted from too much venom which sent the 'floatball' into the bar...the presure got to the kicker. Suarez decision tom parruy the ball showed his guile and instant decision.

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