When it comes to World Cup matches, few can rival Ghana and Uruguay this century.
Twelve and a half years after “that” match in Johannesburg, footage of Luis Suarez celebrating his next level dark arts – some use a stronger term – remains in the memory.
While revenge may not be the main motive for winning Friday’s latest meeting between the parties – or at least not from the perspective of Ghana boss Otto Addo – the Black Stars will relish the chance to beat Suarez & Co.
The prize at stake is not as big as in 2010, when Uruguay won the penalty shoot-out and reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, but if Ghana escapes defeat at the Al Janoub Stadium, they will be among the 16 finalists in Qatar. .
With a tasty bout ahead of them, Stats Perform reveals why their only previous World Championship bout was so infamous and what exactly is at stake this time around.
Two teams. Lots of history.
It’s time for Ghana and Uruguay to meet again on #Soccer World Cup
No need to remind me what happened last time… pic.twitter.com/GVhRFXhoVt
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) April 3, 2022
“The hand of God belongs to me now”
These are words attributed to Suárez in 2010, referring to Diego Maradona’s equally infamous goal for Argentina against England in the 1986 World Cup and clearly proud of his playing prowess.
He may have been public enemy number one in Ghana and wider parts of Africa, but at home, in Uruguay, he became legendary.
“I always say that if I were Suarez, I would do the same to save my country. He is a hero there,” said the great Ghanaian Asamoah Gyan. “People hate him, but he did what he had to do to take his country to the semi-finals.”
So what exactly did Suarez do to be hated or loved to the highest degree, depending on who exactly you ask?
No, the then Ajax striker did not bite anyone – at least in that game – but used another part of his body to help his country win at the expense of Ghana.
After Diego Forlán canceled Sally Muntari’s first leg and sent the match into extra time, penalties loomed to determine who would advance to the bottom four in South Africa.
Ghana looked like the more likely side to win in their bid to become the first African team to reach the semi-finals of the competition, at which point Suárez illegally used a shot from Dominique Adiya on goal.
“Illegally processed” is one way to put it; a great two-handed lane save is something else. Suárez did what was necessary to thwart Adiya’s late effort to eliminate Uruguay, who lost 3-2 to the Netherlands in the next round.
The red card was his punishment, although it was ultimately worth it as Gyan hit the crossbar after the ensuing penalty and it was Uruguay who converted the penalty after the game ended 1–1 after 120 minutes had elapsed.
State of affairs 12 years later
Perhaps more than the act itself, the way Suarez stood on the edge of the field and wildly celebrated Gyan’s slip made the Ghana fans so angry.
The man who had just robbed them of his best day was about to enjoy his best day – or at least with his national team having achieved so much success at club level, where he is now doing his thing again for Nacional.
And so we come full circle to the current day in Al Wakra, where on Friday it will be a heartbreak for at least one from Ghana or Uruguay.
After a thrilling 3-2 win over South Korea, followed by an equally spectacular 3-2 loss to Portugal, Ghana sit second in Group H and are guaranteed a place in the play-offs if they win.
— Black Stars (@GhanaBlackstars) November 29, 2022
A draw, as in Bloemfontein, could also be enough for Ghana if South Korea fails to beat group leader Portugal.
Uruguay, who failed to score in a stalemate against South Korea and lost 2-0 to Portugal, should win and hope that Portugal avoids being beaten by South Korea.
So it’s not exactly winner takes all, but the stakes remain incredibly high in this huge matchup that Suarez is looking to kick off.
“I’m a guy who doesn’t think too much about the past when this incident happened,” Ghana boss Addo said ahead of the match. “I firmly believe that if you do not take revenge, you will receive even more blessings.”
Maybe so. But by beating Uruguay on Friday to retaliate, Ghana will be blessed with a blessing that could take them even further than the magical run 12 years ago ended in the most devastating fashion.
In any case, in what will no doubt be his last World Cup, you wouldn’t bet that this man, Suarez, would be in the spotlight, no matter the outcome.