Uruguay went out of the World Cup on fewer goals scored despite a 2-0 win over Ghana in the final Group H match on Friday.
It was meant to be all about Luis Suarez and in the end it was, as the image of the veteran striker’s desperate face, half-covered by his shirt, flashed onto the big screen in the Al Janoub Stadium.
It had looked as if Giorgian de Arrascaeta would be the hero for Uruguay with two goals, and Suarez playing a secondary role with two assists, but this World Cup has already produced its share of drama and Friday night produced another big portion.
We will never know if Andre Ayew’s tame 19th-minute penalty, which was comfortably saved by Sergio Rochet, would have been as decisive as the one Asamoah Gyan smashed against Uruguay’s crossbar 12 years ago, following Suarez’s well-documented handball, but it clearly affected Ghana, who trailed 2-0 just 13 minutes later.
Suarez was here at the heart of everything, finding space and firing in a low shot in the 25th minute after some comedy defending from Ghana, who allowed a cross to reach him at the far post.
Ati Zigi saved Suarez’s effort, but De Arrascaeta, brought in to inject some pace by Diego Alonso, was on hand to nod the loose ball into an empty net.
It was 2-0 in the 32nd minute, when De Arrascaeta finished with an angled first time shot after a neat flick from Suarez and Uruguay were in complete control.
The 1-1 draw between South Korea and Portugal at halftime in the other group game meant Uruguay couldn’t relax. Meanwhile Ghana had to recover after losing focus after the penalty miss and coach Otto Addo bravely took off the Ayew brothers.
Despite the risk of a second South Korean goal that could have knocked them out, Uruguay seemed content to soak up Ghana’s pressure at the start of the second half.
They had a good appeal for a penalty rejected just before the hour when Darwin Nunez went down in a tangle of legs with Daniel Amartey, but this time the referee said ‘no’ after a long VAR check.
Suarez was booked for time wasting a few moments later, finally giving Ghanaian fans to cheer before he was replaced by Edinson Cavani.
Fede Valverde forced a save from Zigi with a vicious bouncing volley, while at the other end, Antoine Semenyo sent a shot wide and with nine minutes to play Rochet was at full stretch to parry Mohammed Kudus’ shot.
Uruguay had been marking time in the second half, but with five minutes left everything changed with news of South Korea’s second goal came through. Suarez had his head in his hands, coach Alonso began pacing like a madman urging his men forward and pointing at his watch.
Zigi denied Sebastian Coates at full stretch and the defender fired just wide as the big screen flashed another image of Suarez, with his shirt half over his head in despair. ■