Once upon a time.. In what was considered “Africa’s World Cup”, only one African team remained. Ghana had the weight of an entire continent on its shoulders as it prepared to face Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup quarterfinals. The Diego Forlan-led Uruguay team was anxious to get back to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1950. Though on paper it didn’t appear to be, Uruguay vs Ghana was one of the most intense matches in the 2010 World Cup.
Two teams with similar playing styles gave us a thrilling game. A game where neither teams were able to dominate the possession of the ball. Ghana was in fact the only team in the tournament that had been able to control Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan. On the other hand, Ghana had a handful of great chances but failed to really test Uruguay’s Muslera.
Just as the first half was coming to an end, Sulley Muntari received the ball just about 40 yards away from goal, had the time to turn, look up and decided to test his luck with a left-footed cannon that somehow, found its way to the back of the net. A low-driven shot that took a crazy bounce before it reached Muslera and it appeared to catch the keeper off guard. Just like that, Ghana would take their 1-0 lead into the locker room for halftime. A clean sheet for 45 more minutes would be enough to make Ghana the first African nation in a World Cup semifinal.
However, 10 minutes into the second half, Diego Forlan halted Africa’s parade with an absolute knuckleball freekick from an incredibly difficult angle. It appeared as if Forlan had no choice but to cross it in for one of his centre backs but that was Forlan’s World Cup. He could do no wrong in that tournament so why not have a crack at it? Admittedly, the ball did take a major role in that goal. The “Jabulani” was known to dip and swerve uncontrollably after a shot. An overall nightmare for keepers who repeated had to suffer the ball’s uncontrollable trajectory. Regardless, Forlan’s masterpiece tied the game up with most of the second half to play.
The game would then again lack clear goalscoring opportunities for either team and extra time would soon come. It was in extra time when the most bizarre series of events ever seen in a World Cup would take place. In was the last play of extra time, Pantsil sent in a deadly ball and after a couple flicks and headers, Luis Suarez cleared the ball off the line not once but twice. The second one, however was a desperation punch off the line that was quickly marked by the assistant referee. The referee had no choice but to point to the spot and give Uruguay’s 23-year-old striker an immediate red card.
As Suarez cried uncontrollably into his shirt as he walked off the field, the whole World stopped to watch this potential game winning penalty. The continent of Africa had started preparing their celebration after what would most likely be the game winning penalty. From 12 yards, Asamoah Gyan could give his country a semifinal berth.
But he missed it.
He blasted the ball into the crossbar and over the goal wasting the glorious chance. It was his moment to shine and he let the pressure get to him. A missed penalty that would end up being too much for Ghana to bounce back from.
As we all know, in a penalty shootout, anything can happen. Fernando Muslera came up massive for Uruguay blocking two penalties to cancel out Maxi Pereira’s “Ramos-like” miss over the bar. It all came down to Washington Sebastian “el Loco” Abreu. Abreu lived up to his “crazy” nickname and as he stepped up to take not just the most important penalty of his life, but the most important penalty of his generation, Abreu had the audacity to chip the ball. “El Loco” hit his “Panenka” penalty into the back of the net ending all of Africa’s hopes and initiating the celebrations back in Uruguay.
On paper, the Uruguay vs Ghana quarterfinal match in 2010 was the least attractive once. Funny because now, it’s the most talked about fixture that round. Ghana (and all of Africa) will forever remember that horrible horrible miss by Gyan in the final breath of the game. Others will remember the day “el Loco” Abreu lived up to his name and chipped his way into the semifinals of a World Cup. Regardless of who you support, that Uruguay vs Ghana game was one for the books.