In scenes reminiscent of the all-time great World Cup clash, Andre Ayew followed in Asamoah Gyan’s footsteps and missed a penalty that would have given Ghana a 1-0 lead.
Two first-half goals from Giorgian de Arrascaeta secured victory for Uruguay, but it wasn’t enough for a place in the round of 16 as South Korea‘s shock 2-1 win over Portugal helped them break through in goals scored.
Ghana never quite recovered from the foolish stroke of that missed penalty and De Arrascaeta’s quick brace as Uruguay watched the second half in relative comfort. News of the South Korean winner leaked into the stadium five minutes before the end of the match, forcing Uruguay to go on the offensive once more.
However, the breakthrough never came and Uruguay exit the World Cup in the group stage for the first time since 2002.
It will take little consolation for Ghana that Luis Suárez, the villain of their 2010 clash, broke down in tears during regulation time when Uruguay’s players lost their composure, surrounded and manhandled the referees as they left the pitch.
Uruguay were aggrieved that referee Daniel Siebert did not award the team a penalty for Daniel Amartey’s tackle on Darwin Núñez in the second half, but VAR showed the defender touched the ball with his toe in what was a brilliant last minute entry
Make no mistake, this match was one of the most bitter matches at the World Cup in Qatar.
Many Ghanaians have still not recovered from the heartbreak of that night in Johannesburg, in which Suárez blocked a Ghanaian winner with his hands and then celebrated like mad after Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty.
Ghana lost the penalty shootout and Suárez’s role as Uruguay’s savior that night made him a persona non grata in Ghana, earning him the nickname ‘El Diablo’.
It was apparent from the start that there is still no love between these teams and there was drama in the opening 20 minutes at Al Janoub Stadium, with Siebert awarding Ghana a penalty after Uruguayan goalkeeper Sergio Rochet brought down Mohammed Kudus.
It’s hard to imagine the pressure Ayew would have been feeling at the time, taking the place 12 years after his compatriot and former teammate Gyan missed that crucial penalty, and it certainly seemed like it was weighing too much on his shoulders.
Ayew’s penalty was weak and low, giving Rochet one of the easiest saves he’s likely to make of his career.
That miss gave Uruguay a visible boost and La Celeste began to play their best soccer of the tournament so far; the passes were precise and crisp and the movement turned sharp, with Ghana struggling to control the game.
The increasingly inevitable breakthrough came just five minutes after Ayew’s missed penalty, when De Arrascaeta headed the ball over the line after Lawrence Ati Zigi had only partially parried Suárez’s effort.
Then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, it was 2-0 and Ghana’s World Cup hopes evaporated once again against Uruguay.
Suárez was the provider again, slotting a pass into De Arrascaeta’s trajectory and the Flamengo midfielder fired a brilliant volley past Ati Zigi and into the back of the net.
The Uruguayan fans had been asking head coach Diego Alonso to include De Arrascaeta in the starting lineup for this game, and he was certainly rewarding the trust placed in him for this great game.
As it was, Uruguay was somehow progressing towards the knockout stages.
It was a first half that had it all – drama, tension and nerves – and it more than lived up to pre-game expectations.
Ghana needed a historic second-half performance to turn the game around and exorcise the demons of 2010, but based on their first-half performance, that didn’t seem likely.
The Black Stars at least started the second half with more energy, as Osman Bukari fired on goal inside the first 60 seconds.
Head coach Otto Addo made the surprise decision to substitute the Jordan brothers and Andre Ayew at halftime, perhaps weakening his team’s attack. Given the stakes in the second half, it was a timid display from the Black Stars, as the team rarely bothered Rochet on Uruguay’s goal.
A long-range shot from Kudus that forced Rochet to make a clever save was all Ghana could manage as Addo’s side withdrew from Qatar with a whimper.
News of Hwang Hee-chan’s game-winning goal in the 91st minute against Portugal began to leak into the stadium around the 85th minute, causing Suárez to break down in tears and pull his shirt over his head on the bench.
It was a frantic end to the match as both teams desperately searched for the goals that would take them to the round of 16.
Despite much huffing and puffing, neither team made the crucial breakthrough with Ati Zigi denying Uruguay a place in the knockout round with two brilliant saves.