Ghana became the final African team to say goodbye to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, losing in a dramatic penalty shoot-out to Uruguay after a 1-1 quarter-final draw at Johannesburg’s Soccer City. Goalkeeper Fernando Muslera saved efforts from Stephen Appiah and Dominic Adiyiah, before Sebastian Abreu converted the decisive spot-kick for the South Americans, who reach the last four for the first time since 1970.
The Black Stars will have to be content with having become just the third side from the continent to make the quarter-final stage, although they could have won the match with the final kick of extra time. However, their top scorer, Asamoah Gyan, smashed a penalty-kick off the bar that would have tipped the scales to the Africans after Sulley Muntari and Diego Forlan scored either side of half-time.
Uruguay started the match on the front foot, looking dangerous from dead-ball situations and through the dynamic duo of Forlan and Luis Suarez up front. Suarez had the first real chance in the 11th minute when he beat a Ghanaian defender down the the left. He cut into the box but blasted his shot right at goalkeeper Richard Kingson.
Kingson, who is based at Wigan Athletic in England but rarely plays at club level, was the hero for the west Africans twice in short succession. In the 18th minute, from Forlan’s corner, he reacted quickly to keep out the ball after it deflected off John Mensah and was seemingly destined for the back of the net. Seven minutes later, he rescued another defender, this time Isaac Vorsah, who missed a tackle allowing Suarez in on goal. But the net-minder just got his fingertips to Suarez’s effort to push it over acrobatically.
The Black Stars then settled into the match and only narrowly missed going ahead twice near the half-hour mark. From Ghana’s first corner, Vorsah leaped well but headed just wide of the post to the goalkeeper’s right. A minute later, Gyan skimmed the other post after a strong run and cross from Kevin Prince Boateng. The Portsmouth midfielder almost opened the scoring himself in spectacular fashion in the 45th minute, but his overhead kick in front of goal spun off his foot. However, the west Africans got their breakthrough on the stroke of half-time as Muntari scored with a curling 35-yard shot that sent the goalkeeper the wrong way before finding the bottom right corner of the goal.
But if they ended the first period on a high, the Black Stars started the second on a low as Forlan’s free-kick from near the left corner of the box fooled Kingson with its swerve in the 55th minute and bulged the net. The Atletico Madrid hit-man continued to play with confidence and in the 63rd minute he brought the ball down well on the left side of the box in a dangerous position. His cross beat Kingson, but Suarez, who had three goals coming into the match, could only volley into the side-netting at the far post.
As the match opened up and both teams searched for a winner, Suarez had another good opportunity in the 71st minute when sprung free into the box after some good combination play involving Forlan. But from a tight angle on the left he could not beat Kingson, who punched over. Uruguay then went close twice from Forlan free-kicks on the right wing. First, he screamed in a shot that beat the keeper but went into the side netting and next he found Suarez in the box, but the Ajax man’s header was tipped over the bar. Pereira failed to even test Kingson in the 82nd minute after a quality Uruguayan counter-attack left him in space 25 yards out.
Ghana had the clearest opportunities in extra time. Gyan flashed an open header over the bar in the 110th minute, and five minutes later, defender Andres Scotti did just enough to scramble the ball away when it looked like the Ghanaian would score. Boateng almost won it minutes from time, but his header screamed agonisingly wide. And then at the death, from a free-kick into the box, Suarez blocked Appiah’s shot on the line only to stop Adiyiah’s headed follow-up with his hand to set up Gyan’s penalty miss.
With the gasps of a stunned Soccer City still ringing in the ears, Gyan bravely stepped up to immediately convert the first penalty in the shoot-out. Maxi Pereira missed his spot-kick for the Uruguayans, but two consecutive saves by Muslera set up Abreu to be the hero.
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