Dubai: Thoughts of revenge filled the air as Ghana prepared for kick off against Uruguay. This was the first time the teams were meeting since one of the most controversial moments in World Cup history.
Cast your minds back to July 2010 in Johannesburg when a deliberate handball on the goal line by Luis Suarez denied the Black Stars a goal that would have sent them into the semi-finals.
Suarez was sent off and Ghana were awarded a penalty but Asamoah Gyan missed it. The match ended 1-1 and Uruguay went on to win 4-2 in the shootout.
In the buildup ahead of their clash in Qatar, Uruguay decided to put Suarez, of course, in front of the media. He was reminded of the 2010 incident by a journalist but the former Barcelona striker chose not to apologise. “I apologise if I injure a player but I took a red card for the handball. It wasn’t my fault because I didn’t miss the penalty,” he said.
Unsurprisingly tensions were high as the match kicked off at the Al Janoub Stadium and Suarez was booed by the Ghanaian fans whenever he got the ball, not that it seemed to bother the 35-year-old one bit.
Then came the big moment of the half as Ghana were awarded a penalty when Mohamed Kudus was brought down by keeper Sergio Rochet. This was their chance. It was time to gain revenge. They could finally bury the ghosts that had haunted them for 12 years. Captain Jordan Ayew stepped up knowing a goal and a win would send Uruguay packing. Sadly, lightning struck twice as his soft effort was easily saved.
Then, Darwin Nunez broke clear and chipped the ball over the advancing Lawrence Ati-Zigi, but Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu got back to hook the ball away from the goal. It was superb defending but more drama was to follow as Uruguay broke the deadlock when Giorgian de Arrascaeta bundled the ball home after that man Suarez saw his effort saved. The second followed moments later; de Arrascaeta was played in superbly by Suarez and he lashed home.
Kudus looked like the man to spark Ghana into life as he drove towards the Uruguay goal and took aim from distance but could only earn a corner for his side. Boss Otto Addo prowled up and down his technical area hoping his side could get back into the match but as the half time whistle blew they looked down and out.
The equation was simple for Ghana. They had to score two goals and earn a point to qualify but Uruguay started the second half brightly with Facundo Pellistri offering the South Americans plenty of thrust and enterprise down the right flank while Federico Valverde was a steady influence in possession.
Back came Ghana with Kudus coming close again as the Africans began showing lots of energy and intent but Uruguay love defending, it’s an art form for them, and they easily dealt with Ghana’s attacks.
There was one moment of joy for the Ghana fans as on the hour mark Suarez was booked for time wasting. It brought with it the biggest cheer of the night from the Africans but then news of South Korea’s 2-1 win over Portugal - which moved them to second in the group on goal difference - filtered through the packed stadium. That result meant Uruguay would be heading out unless they scored one more goal.
They pushed forward in a desperate attempt and had several chances but failed to convert and as the full time whistle blew the South Americans in the stands were in tears. Uruguay thought they had got the job done. Off had come Suarez, Nunez and goalscorer De Arrascaeta but they did not factor in a South Korea winner.
It was heartbreak for Suarez in his final World Cup and although Ghana were unable to earn revenge for 2010, in the end, they got it without doing a thing.