DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Ghana and Uruguay meet at the World Cup on Friday in a repeat of one of the tournament’s most contentious games.
"It was a really, really long time ago," Ghana coach Otto Addo said.
Maybe so, but to many Ghanaians the quarterfinal defeat to Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup is still a raw and painful memory.
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez’s deliberate handball on the goal-line at the end of extra time denied Ghana a certain goal and a place in history as the first African team to reach the semis. Suarez was sent off for the handball but celebrated wildly on the sidelines when Asamoah Gyan hit the resulting penalty off the crossbar. Uruguay won the ensuing penalty shootout.
To make it worse, Suarez boasted after the 2010 game: “Truth is, it was worth it.”
Twelve years later, Ghana now has a chance to settle the score. By beating Uruguay in their final Group H match, Ghana would advance to the round of 16, while knocking Uruguay out of the tournament.
Though the match in Al Wakrah has been circled as one to watch ever since the World Cup draw was made in April, Addo tried his best to cast is as a “normal game.”
“I’m not really thinking about revenge,” he said, adding he remembered watching Ghana's agonizing loss on TV in 2010. “But it’s 12 years ago and now it’s a different match with a different approach. So I don’t see it as a revenge.”
Ghana, which squeezed out a thrilling 3-2 win over South Korea in its last game, must win again in Al Wakrah to be certain of going past the group stage for the first time since 2010. A draw could also be enough depending on the result of South Korea vs. Portugal.
Captain Andre Ayew is the only Ghana player in Qatar who was on the 2010 squad.
Uruguay has a handful, including the 35-year-old Suarez, who is playing what's likely his farewell World Cup before winding down a career that saw him celebrated as one of the best forwards in the world at one point. He won the Copa America with Uruguay and Spanish league titles and a Champions League trophy with Barcelona.
Suarez also carved out a reputation as one of the game's most controversial characters and has also been punished three times for biting opponents, including a four-month ban for biting Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Uruguay must now beat Ghana and hope South Korea doesn't beat Portugal to extend its stay at the World Cup and Suarez's international career for at least one more game. Goal difference will decide it if Uruguay and South Korea both win.
Stoking it up just a little, Suarez said the 2010 game against Ghana does still mean something.
“We are going to put our lives and soul into this match," Suarez said. “Ghana is a good team but we know them, we have beaten them before and we know how to beat them again.”
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Gerald Imray, The Associated Press