The World Cup Calendar, July 2nd. Suarez’s Knockout Punch

It’s going to be a sad day when Luis Suarez hangs up his boots, he just has this habit of creating memorable World Cup moments. Unfortunately for Ghana, just as it was unfortunate for Giorgio Chiellini, Suarez’s shenanigans proved costly. I’m not going to put you through the charade of pretending “the incident” is a shock or surprise. We all know Luis Suarez punched the ball off the line to deny Ghana a last minute winner, just like we all know Ghana went on to lose in that penalty shoot out. Just because we know what happens doesn’t mean we can’t still discuss it.

Diego Forlan created the first real chance of the first half. He whipped in a cross from a corner towards the front post which found the head of Edinson Cavani. Cavani’s header bounced off the chest of Ghana’s captain John Mensah which saw the ball directed towards goal. Richard Kingson, marshalling the Ghanaian goal, pushed the ball to safety. Uruguay had been a punishing in South Africa and had fired Ghana an early warning sign.

Up the other end of the pitch and it was Ghana who caused Uruguay trouble from a corner. Inter Milan winger Sulley Muntari put a devastating corner into the middle of the box. Diego Lugano stood static as centre half IsaacVorsah did his best to attack the ball. Vorsah hammered the ball with his head, drilling it over the bar. The header may have gone over the bar, but it must have been a concern for Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez to see his side beaten so easily in the air.

Against the run of play, Ghana took the lead deep into extra time. Hans Sarpei calmly chested the ball down from a Uruguayan goal kick and played a pass up to Asamoah Gyan. Gyan played the ball back to Muntari who slowly dribbled the ball around the middle of the field, before looking up and taking a crack at goal. The shot was struck from over 35 yards out and took a bounce in the box to outfox Fernando Muslera, Uruguay’s ‘keeper. In true West African form, a terrific dancey goal celebration followed.

Ten minutes into the second half and Uruguay had levelled through their striker Diego Forlan. Jorge Fucile was brought down by John Paintsil, with Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca awarding a free kick. The infamous Jabulani football arced and swirled in the air, cruelly twisting away from Kingson just yards from his hands. Kingson did get his angles wrong, but it was hard to account for that confounded football.

Uruguay were starting to find their form. Fucile took a throw in to Nicolas Lodiero. Lodiero hit the pass forward to the overlapping Luis Suarez. Suarez watched the ball travel in his direction, picking his moment to strike before unleashing a powerful shot towards Richard Kingson. Kingson made a strong save, tipping the effort over the bar.

The game finished 1-1 after extra time. Uruguay had been the stronger team over 90 minutes, but into extra time and it was Ghana who looked to be the most likely to progress to the semi finals. Andreas Scotti nearly turned the ball into his own box, Gyan had a shot on goal and Kevin-Prince Boateng had a header that troubled Muslera. It wasn’t until the final minute of extra time that the real drama occurred.

John Painsil fired a free kick into the box, seeing his cross flicked from front post to back by Kevin-Prince Boateng. John Mensah and Fernando Muslera challenged for the ball in the air. Neither player made a strong connection and the ball fell to the ground. Serie A veteran Stephen Appiah found space in the box to turn the loose ball towards goal, only for Luis Suarez to make a terrific block on the line… with his legs.

From Suarez’s block, the ball bounced up and was attacked by Dominic Adiyiah. Adiyiah headed the ball towards goal and saw his shot blocked once again by Suarez. Only this time, it was not his leg that blocked his shot, it was his hand. The Ghanaian players swarmed the referee appealing for a penalty and their appeals were granted. Luis Suarez was shown a straight red card and given his marching orders.

Asamoah Gyan was tasked with taking the resulting penalty. He had been one of the breakthrough stars of World Cup 2010, and in the 121st minute of the World Cup Quarter Final, the pressure was indescribable. The world watched as striker stepped up to the spot, the nerves evident on Gyan’s face. He struck the ball and watched in horror as it struck the crossbar and went out for a goal kick. Ghana should have scored the header, then were gifted a penalty after Suarez cheated, and yet the chance wasn’t converted. The most sickening part of the whole scenario was Suarez’s manic celebration upon seeing the penalty missed. After the match he claimed that it was the save of the tournament!

After the disappointment of missing the last minute penalty, Ghana immediately had to shake off their frustration and partake in a penalty shootout. Diego Forlan netted his shot with ease. Next up: Asamoah Gyan. It was bold of Gyan to take the penalty, due to missing his last penalty, just five minutes before. Gyan rocketed his shot into the top of the net, equalling the score. Uruguay centre back Mauricio Victorino scored his penalty, before Appiah levelled the tie. Despite Richard Kingson diving almost out the six yard box, he still couldn’t save Andreas Scotti’s shot.

After five successful penalties, the next three all missed. John Mensah hit a truly atrocious penalty. Mensah took a single step run up, knocking his penalty into the arms of Muslera. This was followed by Maxi Pereira blasting his penalty high over the bar. Things went from bad to worse for Ghana as Adiyiah placed his penalty into the arms of Muslera, a good save in spite of the so-so penalty. Asamoah Gyan cracked under the pressure of a match winning penalty in extra time. Sebastian Abreu did not crack. Not just did Abreu rise to the occasion, he proved that he had balls of steel. A match winning penalty and he chipped the ball, watching joyously as he dinked the ball in to the empty net, sending his side into the Semi Finals.

A diabolical handball in one World Cup, a vicious bite in the next. Lord help Uruguay’s opposition in Russia 2018. But was what he did really that bad? On one hand, yes, he cheated. He deliberately punched the ball off the line to deny a clear goal scoring opportunity. On the other hand, he merely did what he could to help his side out. He gave his team a chance to progress, and they did it. It is also worth noting that while Luis Suarez proved himself to be a total bastard, Jorge Fucile was on the line next to him, trying to do the exact same thing. It was a shame for Ghana, as they were denied the right to be Africa’s first semi finalists, but that is just how football goes. The good guys don’t always win, the fairytale story doesn’t always materialise. Uruguay went on to face the Netherlands in the next round and lost a thrilling 3-2 game. This game truly was one of the most memorable matches of World Cup 2010. Whether you believe that Suarez was a horrible cheat, or simply showing his patriotism in his own unique way, I’m sure we can all agree that he is indeed, a complete bastard. Yes, I am aware that this is the second time in this series that I have finished on that sentiment.

Tomorrow’s game: July 3rd. Brazil v Denmark. 1998.