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With Penalty Kicks, Uruguay Wins Marathon Match Against Ghana, Advances

After he handled the ball on the goal line in the final seconds of the quarterfinal match, officials gave Luis Suarez a red card.
After he handled the ball on the goal line in the final seconds of the quarterfinal match, officials gave Luis Suarez a red card.

After two periods of extra time and a penalty shoot-out, Uruguay won a nerve-wracking quarterfinal match against Ghana, to advance to a semifinal match against the Netherlands.

Uruguay's Diego Forlan, Mauricio Victorino, Andres Scotti, and Sebastian Abreu made their penalty kicks. Ghana's Asamoah Gyan and Stephen Appiah made theirs.

The final few seconds of the second period of extra time were agonizing, as Ghana nearly scored on a free-kick from the right wing.

Luis Suarez cleared the first shot with his knee, then blocked a second shot illegally with his hand. That earned him a red card, and Ghana got a second free-kick, which Gyan missed.

Early in the second half, The Sky Blue tied The Black Stars, 1-1. Simon Burnton, blogging forThe Guardian, said that, "again, it's all about the keeper taking a step in the wrong direction and being punished for it."

[Goalkeeper Richard] Kingson jumps forwards, the ball flies over his head and into the top corner from the left corner of the penalty area. Fine free-kick, but possibly Jabulani-affected.

"Jabulani" is the name of the official World Cup ball, which is manufactured by Adidas. According to theLos Angeles Times, players have complained "the ball travels too fast, is wobbly and unpredictable in flight." FIFA has said it will meet with coaches and players after the tournament, to talk about the ball with Adidas.

A lot was at stake in Soweto. No African team has ever made it to a World Cup semifinal.

Neither team was able to gain an advantage in regulation time. If no team scores in the second period of extra time, there will be a penalty shoot-out.

Ghana went into halftime euphoric. In the second minute of stoppage time in the first half, midfielder Sulley Muntari scored the first goal of the match.

Burnton called it a "ludicrous goal."

"With the last kick of the half, Muntari lashes a left-foot shot goalwards from fully 35 yards, the keeper takes a telling half-step to his right and is beaten as the ball curls to his left," he wrote. "Ludicrously long range."

For the second part of the half, commentators agreed Ghana had more momentum than its opponent.

Spectators in Soweto's Soccer City gasped when Uruguayan defender Jorge Fucile, going for a header, took an awkward, terrible fall, landing on his head and neck. For a moment, he was unconscious.

Jeffrey Marcus, reporting forThe New York Times, painted a great picture of the scene in the stadium:

"People here are dressed in red, yellow and green for Ghana," he writes. "South Africans wasted no time jumping on the Black Star express after Bafana Bafana were knocked out."

Ghana knows its playing for all of Africa. Yesterday, Asamoah Gyan said: "We are the only African team to be at this level for the competition. I'm really proud of my boys and at this moment the whole of the world has respect for Ghana."

They also secured an important endorsement. In a signed statement, Nelson Mandela said he would support Ghana in the tournament, going forward:

On the historic occasion of the first FIFA World Cup to be hosted in Africa, it is a great pleasure to see that Ghana has reached the quarter finals. We join everybody else on the continent and in the diaspora in wishing you success in the tournament going forward.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

David Gura
Based in New York, David Gura is a correspondent on NPR's business desk. His stories are broadcast on NPR's newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and he regularly guest hosts 1A, a co-production of NPR and WAMU.