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Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Themba Hadebe
# haunted
Suarez torments Ghana, but is left in tears as Uruguay crash out in remarkable late twist
In the end the only happiness was glorying in others’ despair, writes Gavin Cooney from the Al Janoub Stadium in Qatar.

Ghana 0

Uruguay 2

LUIS SUAREZ HAS again dragged Ghana into hell, though this time Uruguay have been dragged down with them.

Ghana/Uruguay is the World Cup’s version of mutually assured destruction: Ghana were eliminated by Uruguay, and then Uruguay by South Korea whose stoppage-time winner against Portugal saw them clinch the runner-up spot on goals scored.

In the end the only happiness was glorying in others’ despair, the Ghana fans screaming in delight when Suarez’s weeping face appeared on the stadium screen, now substituted and left to writhe, powerless in agony. 

Uruguay were comfortable, so comfortable, cruising 2-0 in the game with Ghana beaten but South Korea to fret about. Their worst fears — made real by Hwang Hee-chan’s 91st-minute winner — were confirmed just before seven minutes of added time were announced. It became a mad thrill as Uruguay flung forward but couldn’t find the one, solitary goal they needed to qualify. 

It ended with everyone beaten and Suarez broken, sobbing uncontrollably into his shirt on the bench as Uruguyan players chased the referee from the pitch, furious at the non-awarding of penalties to Darwin Nunez and Edinson Cavani. 

A Ghanaian journalist referred to Suarez as “the devil himself” ahead of this game and this time he played the role of the ferryman, setting up both goals for Grigorian de Arrascaeta to send Ghana home. Ghana’s group-stage exit won’t hurt as much as their awful last-eight exit at Suarez’ hands in 2010 but this was still pain compounded and eerily so, with Andre Ayew missing an early penalty that might have made the game entirely different. 

Uruguay weren’t exactly closeting the ghosts before this game, putting Suarez up for the pre-match press conference, met by one African journalist with a tweet reading, “You can clearly observe the Uruguay plot ahead of the game. Using Suarez to trigger emotions, distract and leave distraught. I assume they have such other dangerous schemes to apply on the field, too.” 

Suarez was told by a journalist that in Ghana he is referred to as “the devil himself”, and that they hoped to retire him from the World Cup in retribution him for his dark sorcery in South Africa. Suarez again refused to apologise for his handball on the goal-line 12 years ago, and remains slightly baffled that anyone sees this as a controversy. “I didn’t miss the penalty, it’s not my fault.” 

Uruguay even benched Diego Godin and made Suarez captain, as if their genuine ploy was to keep thrusting Suarez in Ghana’s faces, as a kind of Candyman who kept appearing in their mirrors. Andre Ayew, Ghana’s sole survivor from 2010, met Suarez at the coin-toss. 

And, incredibly, the memories of 2010 were stirred after only 15 minutes. This time the penalty wasn’t awarded in the same operatic hysterics as 2010 but instead in the slow-burn, HBO-drama style of VAR.

Initially Uruguay goalkeeper Sergio Rochet thought he had got away with throwing himself at Mohammad Kudus after he spilled Jordan Ayew’s shot, with Andre Ayew standing offside and in Rochet’s line of vision. The mysterious AI-assisted offside, however, spotted that Sebastian Coates’ trailing studs were playing Ayew onside and thus, having decided Rochet had tripped Kudus, the referee pointed to the spot, whereupon he was berated by Luis Suarez, one hand resting on his hip, the other jabbing furiously. 

wcup-ghana-uruguay-soccer Aijaz Rahi Suarez argues with the referee's awarding of a Ghana penalty. Aijaz Rahi

Almost six minutes separated the penalty’s genesis and execution, time in which Uruguay ran the full gambit of emotions, Nunez repurposing rage to scuff the penalty spot. Never a man who will win marks for subtlety, Nunez did it in full view of the referee and got booked.

Andre Ayew stood up to do what Asamoah Gyan could not do and did half the job by keeping penalty low but tamely so, and thus it was easily parried by Rochet who dived to his left. Suarez’s celebrations were eclipsed by Fede Valverde’s, who went full Aldridge-to-Fernando-Couto to the referee. 

Ghana’s torture was only beginning. Five minutes later, they didn’t defend a cross from Uruguay’s right flank and the ball ran through for Suarez, who shuffled inside and hit a shot that goalkeeper Ati Lawrence Ziggi allowed pass lamely through his gloves. The ball looked like it was spinning across the goal line, but De Arrascaeta nodded the ball in from a yard out, Narrative having to settle for an assist. 

Six minutes later, De Arrascaeta had his second, elevating a heads-and-volleys goal to high art: Pellistri’s scoop up was flicked by Nunez to Suarez, whose hooked, over-the-shoulder pass was brilliant and fired in on the volley by De Arrascaeta. 

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De Arrascaeta’s inclusion in a more straight-forward 4-4-2 was a triumph for Diego Alonso, though the Flamengo midfielder shouldn’t have seen half-time, somehow escaping VAR censure for a sly stamp on Kudus’s ribs. That the move instead ended in a foul for a powderpuff tackle on Suarez merely italicised Ghana’s malign fate when faced with this man. 

Ghana did get a reprieve of sorts early in the second half, the referee sticking with his original decision of telling Nunez he hadn’t been fouled by Daniel Amartey after the VAR sent him to the screen.  It was controversial at the time: South Korea’s upset will mean it’s remembered as a scandal in Uruguay. 

Suarez left just after the hour mark, to religious reverie from the sky blue shirts corralled in the stands. But for all their comfort in the game, Uruguay’s awful precarity was betrayed by South Korea’s dramatic late goal. 

Now needing a goal, Uruguay threw all they had: Lawrence Zigi making a stunning save from Gomez’ from long range, while Cavani took a tumble in the box. 

In the end they couldn’t force the goal, and Uruguay, who have inflicted more torment on Ghana than anyone else, joined their opponents in the soak of dismay. 

Ghana: Ati Lawrence Zigi; Alidu Seidu, Daniel Amartey, Mohammed Salisu, Baba Rahman; Thomas Partey, Salis Abdul Samed (Daniel-Kofi Kyereh, 72′); Mohammed Kudus, Andre Ayew (captain) (Osman Bukari, HT), Jordan Ayew (Kamal-Deen Sulemana, HT); Inaki Williams (Antoine Semenyo, 72′)

Uruguay: Sergio Rochet; Guillermo Varela, Jose Maria Gimenez, Sebastian Coates, Mathias Olivera; Facundo Pellistri (Nicolás De La Cruz, 65′), Fede Valverde, Rodrigo Bentancur (Matias Vecino, 34′) Grigorian De Arrascaeta; Luis Suarez (captain) (Edinson Cavani, 65′) Darwin Nunez

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