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Date: 14 December 2018

  Zimbabwean - Soccer

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African Dream not aborted, just deferred!

[Posted 03 Jul 2010]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
African Dream not aborted, just deferred!

Brighton Mupangavanhu

There were amazing, painful and at times shocking scenes at the giant Soccer City Stadium last night as Uruguay rode their lady luck to claim a memorable victory against the pride and hope of Africa, Ghana, and in the process book a place in the semi-finals against the Netherlands, for the first time since 1970. The match had ended 1-1 after probably the most dramatic Extra-time in the history of the World Cup.

With the match seemingly poised for the dreaded penalty shoot-out after a string of missed gilt-edged chances by both teams, but especially Ghana, there was goal mouth drama in the Uruguayan goal area in the 119th minute.

A ball was played into the Uruguayan goal area as Ghana dominated the Extra-time second half. A goal mouth melee ensued. Substitute Dominic Adiyiah struck the ball goal-wards in twice succession, and twice Luis Suarez legitimately blocked his efforts. Another second half  substitute Stephen Appiah then headed the ball goal-wards and it was a sure goal given the 4m distance from goal. Luis Suarez sought to illegally deny Ghana the last gasp victory and clearly punched the header with both hands into play.

The high ball appeared to have crossed the line when Suarez punched it back into play. The referee chose to issue a straight red card, not surprisingly. Against all expectations, he did not award the goal, but ordered a penalty! From the penalty, Asamoah Gyan's hurried kick skimmed the cross bar, and what an agonising miss that was! Gyan felt gutted. And that was the last kick of Extra Time.

During penalty shoot-out, the devastated Black Stars failed to keep their composure. Though two early kicks by Gyan and Appiah got in, captain John Mensah and young Adiyiah had their tame kicks saved by Fernando Muslera. Uruguay, buoyed by what they believed was divine intervention, calmly and confidently converted their first three kicks, but skied one. After Ghana's second miss, Uruguay substitute defender showed incredible calmness and maturity to send Kingson the wrong way with a cheeky and deceptive kick. That last kick sent Uruguay into a frenzy as they qualified for the semis. There was an eerie silence at the Soccer City Stadium.

Ghana had taken the lead after with the last kick of the First Half, from excellent play by Sulley Muntari. The Inter-Milan midfielder found space from 40 yards, and had ample time to pick his spot and drove an unstoppable 40-yard drive which gave Muslera no chance. Ghana had awoken from earlier subjugation after enduring more than 25 minutes of an Uruguayan storm. Kingson had kept Ghana in the game with some excellent saves, tipping over Suarez's efforts over the bar  more than twice, and Mensah's deflected effort from a Diego Forlan corner. The Atletico Madrid star was a real thorn in the flesh for Ghana last night. 

For the final 20 minutes of the opening half, Ghana completely turned the tables on their opponents and beat them into submission with some slicky passing game, resulting in many scoring opportunities by the Black Stars. Muntari's strike at goal was one of many that Ghana had squandered. Muntari had threatened the Uruguayan goal earlier when he rose above the defence and headed just wide of Muslera's goal.

The second half saw both teams missing clear chances infront of goal in a tightly contested half, were challenges were getting more physical and yellow cards were flying in both directions. Ghana missed  more chances in the second half. Gyan missed a clear chance after some excellent build-ups from Ghana which resulted in a beautiful low delivery from the right. Asamoah also skied his efforts on numerous occasions.  

Ghana will live with the agony of coming so near to a semi-final berth and sniffing at the prospect of making history, especially with the manner they squandered gilt-edged chances in the second half of Extra time. Ofcourse and understandably, the missed penalty will dominate discussions and debate in years to come in Ghana and the rest of the African continent. It presented Ghana with the best chance ever to book a date with destiny.

But its all done now, the Black Stars and the rest of the African continent have to pick themselves up and prepare to fight another day in the next global showpiece in Brazil in about 4years' time. Crazy things happen in soccer. Sometimes its not the best team which wins, but the one that rides its luck well and on whom lady luck smiles at times. Ghana did not lose in the manner Brazil lost, after being dominated by the Netherlands in the earlier quarter-final match of the day. Ghana got punished for failing to utilise their chances. There is an unwritten rule in football "The wasteful shall be punished". It rang true for Ghana last night.

And it was a lucky day for Uruguay. What can we say, when a player deliberately handles to deny the other team a legitimate goal and victory, and connive with the shocking laws of the game to deny victory where it is due? Is it not lady luck really when in a matter of seconds, a player becomes a villain when he embarks on unsporting conduct and sees red, then in a few seconds it emerges that in fact he has suddenly become a hero for his team and country, albeit through misconduct?

Ghana and its African supporters have nothing to be ashamed of. If anything, Ghana have bowed out with their heads held high. They played exciting football and have demonstrated that the imagined gulf between European and South American teams on one side, and Africa and the rest on othe other side, is really what it is-just imaginary. It exists nomore. With better preparation, and better investment in a polished gun-slinger, Ghana can return to the World Cup finals and even reach the finals in Brazil 2014.

Well done Ghana despite the unfortunate loss. Thats football. Well done to South African fans for demonstrating that Africa can be one. Thank you Ghana for helping us dream, and helping Africa unite under one cause, the desire to see one of its own lift the World Cup trophy. Well, it has not happened on home soil, but the dream lives on! Who says it can not happen even in Brazil's backyard in 2014? 

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