Ghana play Uruguay today in one of the World Cup’s all-time grudge matches. It is the first time the two sides have met since their infamous quarter-final in South Africa where a Luis Suarez goalline handball was the only thing between the Black Stars from becoming the first African team ever to reach the semis. The striker remains a villain in the country to this day and many in the country see today’s game as a chance to seek revenge.
The match was a standout from the World Cup draw made in April. The chance to see Suarez take on the country he had wronged 12 years ago is a mouthwatering prospect.
It was at the FNB Stadium in 2010 were the rivalry was formed. Ghana won a corner in the 120th minute with the score tied at 1-1, giving them a chance to win the game. Dominic Adiyiah got himself on the end of it, his header beat Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera but not the desperate hands of Suarez.
The Uruguayan forward was sent off for his save and walked off the pitch in tears, fearing his side were about to go out of the World Cup. Ghana’s talisman Asamoah Gyan was on penalty duties and had already scored twice from the spot in the tournament. Yet, he hit the bar, sparking wild celebrations from Suarez on the touchline.
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The rest, as they say, is history, with the South Americans going on to win the match on penalties and break African hearts. Suarez later explained his feelings at that moment, suggesting it was all worth it.
“I walked off the pitch devastated,” he said. “I was crying and the only thing going through my head at that point was, ‘We’re going out of the World Cup, we’re going out of the World Cup.’ I had been sent off and we were going home. Gyan was going to take the penalty and (…) I was convinced he wasn’t going to miss. We had no chance.
“And then I saw the ball go over the bar. He had missed. And one word came out of my mouth: ‘Gol!’ The feeling, the sense of release, was the same as if we had scored. Unbelievable. I’ll never forget it. That was when I realised what I’d done. That was when I realised the sending-off had been worth it. I had stopped a goal, they had missed the penalty and we were still alive.”
He doubled down on his stance ahead of today’s encounter after being described as ‘the devil himself’ by a Ghanaian journalist, suggesting he had nothing to apologise for and that other players would do the same.
“I don’t apologise about that, I took the handball, but Ghana player missed the penalty.” the Uruguayan told reporters in the pre-match press conference. “I’d apologise if I injured a player or took a red card for this, but I took a red card (for the handball). It wasn’t my fault because I didn’t miss the penalty.
“You see the player who missed the penalty, he said he would do the same.”
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Gyan has freely admitted that this is the case, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph upon signing for Sunderland in 2010, suggesting he harboured no ill feelings against the striker for his actions.
“I’ve forgiven him—it’s part of the game,” he said. “If it was me, I would have done the same thing. In the last minute, if you’re going out, he made himself a hero in his country. It was cheating to handle the ball, but I would do the same.”
However, Gyan’s stance is not shared by many within his country who still view Suarez as a villain over 12 years later. Today is seen as a chance for revenge, a Ghana win would see the country progress at the expense of Uruguay.
Yet Ghana skipper Andre Ayew, who is the only current player to have been part of the squad that day, has been keen to stress that getting revenge will not be the team’s focus later today.
“I’m the only one left in the squad from when that happened,” he said earlier this week. “Everyone knows how we felt. Everyone felt bad but, for me, I just want to get to the next stage at this World Cup.
“It’s not about revenge. Whether it was, or not, we’ll go with the same determination and same desire to win because we want to reach the next stage. I don’t think Ghana has forgiven Luis Suarez. But for me, it’s football. He took a decision. There’s nothing to speak about. We’re just going to see how we’re going to play versus them and find ways to beat them.”
Kick-off at the Al Janoub Stadium is at 3pm today with the game live on the BBC. The eyes of the world are likely to be on the match as they hold out to see whether or not anything kicks off between Suarez and the Ghana players.