Ghana can’t seal it late
South Americans head to semis with shootout victory
Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan, left, can’t convert a penalty kick in 120th minute, and Uruguay takes advantage with shootout victory.
JOHANNESBURG — Nothing, it seemed, would go in for Ghana.
Not the shot kicked away at the goal line. Not the block ruled a handball an instant later as extra time ticked to a close. Not the subsequent penalty kick that sure-footed Asamoah Gyan sent bouncing straight up off the crossbar.
And not two more tries in the shootout as Uruguay, suddenly still alive, made four kicks and won the match 4-2 Friday night after a 1-1 draw. The South Americans are headed to the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 40 years.
The Ghanaians were headed home in tears.
“It’s hard luck. You know, we had opportunity to win this game,” Gyan said.
With time running out, a scramble in front of the Uruguay net caught goalkeeper Fernando Muslera out of position. A shot by Ghana was kicked away on the goal line by Luis Suarez.
Then, Dominic Adiyiah’s header was cleared off the goal line by Suarez — using his arm.
That drew an immediate red card for the striker, who will miss the semifinal, and sent Gyan to the penalty spot.
All Gyan needed to do was send it past Muslera — and that would have sent the Black Stars into Africa’s first World Cup semifinal.
Child’s play for Gyan, who twice in the tournament scored on a penalty kick. He stared down Muslera, then stroked the ball solidly.
Just as solidly, it hit the crossbar. Gyan stumbled away holding his head.
“To be among the four best (teams) in the world, there are no words for that,” Uruguay star striker Diego Forlan said. “We felt we were going to faint with each penalty.”
Rather than faint, Uruguay pounced on an almost unimaginable second chance.
The fans, except for the small pockets of blue-clad Uruguay supporters in the crowd of 84,017, booed Forlan before he sent the first kick of the shootout past Richard Kingson.
And who would step up first for Ghana but Gyan — and he also struck the ball perfectly. Had he done so minutes earlier, Ghana and all of Africa would be celebrating a historic achievement.
Instead, the shootout moved to 3-2 for Uruguay and Muslera guessed correctly, diving left for an easy save on John Mensah. After Maximiliano Pereira’s kick skied over the net for Uruguay, the vuvuzelas again were at their loudest.
But Muslera also stopped Dominic Adiyiah, and Sebastian Abreu won it with a soft but accurate placement as Kingson dived right.
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez, left, stops the ball with his hands, giving Ghana a late penalty kick during their World Cup quarterfinal. Ghana couldn’t convert, and Uruguay went on to win.