Thursday, Dec. 09, 2010

Ghana's World Cup Giveaway

Spain may have won the World Cup in an ugly final game against the Netherlands, but the most memorable moment of the tournament belonged to the teams from Uruguay and Ghana. Near the end of extra time in their quarterfinal match, with the game still tied 1-1, the safe bet was that the teams were headed for penalty kicks. Yet Ghana had one last chance to score, on a free kick, and the set piece was a beauty: the ball was delivered towards the goal box, then headed across four Uruguay defenders before the Uruguay keeper batted it down. On the rebound, a Ghana player had a clear shot at the goal, but Uruguay forward Luis Suarez positioned himself perfectly, in front of the net, to knock this flick off his leg. This rebound floated to the head of Ghana's Dominic Adiyiah, who quickly batted it back towards the net. This time, Suarez had no defense but his hand. This intentional foul gave Ghana a penalty kick, and what looked like an improbable win. A World Cup's worth of suspense and improbability unfolded over these ten seconds in South Africa.

Then things got even more unreal. Ghana's best player, Asamoah Gyan, shanked the penalty kick that would have sent an African nation to its first World Cup semifinal, breaking a continent's heart. He covered his face with his hands: most of the planet, perhaps even a few Uruguayans, felt for him. Uruguay eventually won on penalty kicks, making Suarez either the most clever, or sinister, player in the Cup, depending on your point of view.