5th July, 2010
Oâ€œOh! What a miss! Oh! Oh!! Oh!!! This is the end of Africa and now Ghana on their way home while Uruguay head straight to the semi final.â€ That was the last statement from the commentary box at the Soccer City Stadium when Ghanaâ€™s Black Stars bowed out of the 2010 FIFA World Cup last Friday.
The Ghanaian squad, that are due back home in Accra today after doing Africa proud in South Africa, were on the verge of making World Cup history in their quarter final encounter against Uruguay.
Not even Milovan Rajevac, the Serb coach who led Ghana to the tournament, believed his eyes when striker Asamoah Gyan dashed what remained the last hope of the continent. Ghana and Uruguay were tied on 1-1 scoreline until the last minute of the energy sapping extra time.
Just as players of both teams had given up on the game and getting their minds prepared for a penalty shoot-out, Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca was already looking at his watch to stop the match.
P.M.Sports writer, as well as hundreds of international journalists at the Media Tribune had already drawn the penalty chart, believing the power-packed game was over.
The over 80,000 fans, mostly South Africans who were clad in Ghanaian yellow, red and green colours blew their famous Vuvuzela to the high heavens.
The noise at that crucial moment was deafening. As an African writer from Nigeria, one would have thought that the fans were attempting to use the Vuvuzela to wake up the god of soccer, to come down and intervene of behalf of Africa.
Who says the god of soccer is not from this continent? Sure, he is, because the spectators, including millions of Africans watching on television felt â€˜his presenceâ€™ when Luis Suarez of Uruguay handled the ball on the goalline.
Penalty! The entire world chorused, and all were waiting to see and celebrate the new record breakers advance to the last four of the first World Cup to be staged on the continent.
Referee Benquerenca wasted no time to rule for the glaring spot kick and red carded Suarez for parrying out a net bound header from Dominic Adiyiah.
And the moment, the last 45 seconds that was to put the continent on the winning path in FIFAâ€™s most celebrated competition, came.
Skipper John Mensah and his teammates, especially erstwhile captain and substitute in the tie, Stephen Appiah urged the fans to jubilate over the semi final ticket that was on offer about half a minute away.
The spirit of winning and losing enveloped the arena, but it was the Uruguayans who thought their sojourn in South Africa had ended.
With about 10 seconds left on the watch, what should have drawn the curtain for Ghanaâ€™s South American opponents turned into disbelief. Gyan, a penalty specialist who had scored twice for Ghana in this World Cup, ballooned the ball against the upright and the Stars, nay Africa watched in disbelief how their last hope flicked over the bar.
The ref blew his whistle and the teams got their acts together for the ensuing penalty shoot-out, and the pendulum of victory swung towards Uruguay that won 4-2 to progress to the semi-final.
â€œWhat a match, what a day, it was a painful lossÂ not only for Ghana but for the entire continent of Africa,â€ Abedi Pele, the former Ghanaian captain who was a guest at SABC said after the game.
Thousands of fans left the stadium very disappointed, while Gyan and his teammates broke down in tears, but for Uruguay, an all night party followed their victory against the four times African Cup of Nations champions.
Although Ghana crashed out of the world Cup, they were not disgraced like the Nigerian team that failed to win a single match in South Africa.
Though, the spectators, went back home very sad because it ended Africaâ€™s dream of reaching the finals, they still had something to cheer in the exciting match, especially in the second half when Ghana took the game to Uruguay.
The Ghana goal was scored by Sulley Muntari in the first half while Diego Forlan got the equalizer in the second half.
The early part of the first half was more in favour of the South Americans but Ghana looked the better side and had some good scoring opportunities.
After a flurry of attempts on goalkeeper Fernando Musleraâ€™s vital area, Sulley Muntari swerved his way into a free spot to net Ghanaâ€™s opener from a long-range shot which caught the Uruguay goalie off guard just before the first break.
Defender Jorge Fucile won the South Americans a free-kick on the edge of Ghanaâ€™s box, which Diego Forlan perfectly stroked beyond the reach of Richard Kingson, ending the regulation time 1-1. No goal was scored by either side before the regular penalty shoot-out.
â€œI will bounce back, Iâ€™m strong mentally. I had the courage to take the penalty, but it hit the bar, what else will I say, I blew our only chance and now we are going home. I feel sad, really sad,â€ Gyan told journalists after their ouster from South Africa 2010.
Diego Forlan, who captained Uruguay said: â€œWe were just lucky to win because Ghana were nearer the semi finals. But, we appreciate our progress and will now get set for the next matchâ€.
While many Uruguayans are praising Suarez as their hero in his country, the Ghanaians believe his hands prevented them from making history.
In coach Rajevacâ€™s opinion, â€œthe ball was going into the net before Suarez stopped it, and Gyan missed the penalty. Thatâ€™s footballâ€.
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez, however, defended Suarez, who will miss tomorrowâ€™s semi final against the Netherlands.
â€œIt was instinctive, he instinctively put his hand out to the ball and was red carded and will miss the next game,â€ Tabarez said.
â€œHe has paid for the consequences of his actions. He was not to know that Ghana would miss the resulting penalty. It is not fair to say that we cheated our way to victory.â€
Meanwhile, members of the Black Stars were hosted by Madiba, Nelson Mandela, at his home on Saturday, while the team were treated to a lavish send-forth party by Ghanaâ€™s Consular office in Johannesburg yesterday.