There are no winners in revenge missions. Sentiment demanded that Ghana should right the wrongs of their 2010 World Cup quarter-final against Uruguay and expiate the hurt of Luis Suárez’s last-minute handball on the line.
But Uruguay, and Suárez in particular, have no time for such romantic notions of redemption.
Ghana were again eliminated after missing a penalty but they had the consolation that, although Suárez set up two, it was South Korea and not Uruguay who went through to the last 16 with Portugal.
Uruguay did not react well, as Ghanaians sat in resigned weariness on the pitch, Uruguay’s players surrounded the idiosyncratic German referee, Daniel Siebert, at the final whistle, furious they hadn’t been awarded at least one of two huge penalty appeals in the second half.
The Ghanaian fans, resigned by then to their exit, seemed to enjoy it all immensely. And as José María Giménez raged at Siebert, Suárez wept on the bench.
This was a game haunted by the memory of events at Soccer City 12 years ago, and specifically by that one moment in the final minute of extra-time.
The image was always there, a perverse footballing pietà, flitting in the peripheral vision: Stephen Appiah in the foreground having had the initial blocked effort (which was probably offside, although nobody talks about that), John Mensah and the goalkeeper Fernando Muslera falling together with Andrés Scotti, Dominic Adiyiah stretching having headed the loose ball goalwards, Jorge Fucile with back arched and left fist thrust up having missed his attempt to handle, and Suárez, arms out, leaping to his right to claw the ball away. It is the Pisgah of African football, the moment when it saw the promised land of a World Cup semi-final, but was denied.
Billboards across Accra this week have depicted the incident with the slogan: “REVENGE!: Let’s support the Black Stars.” The fact that Ghanaians still feel the pain of that moment was made clear by the pre-match press conference. Suárez, with a characteristic sense of provocative showmanship, appeared alone and seemed entirely unfazed by a Ghanaian journalist saying that many in his country saw him as “the devil himself” (adding “el diablo”, lest there be any confusion) and wanted to “retire” him. He didn’t regret it, he said. He had been punished. He had been shown a red card and missed the semi-final as a result. It wasn’t his fault Asamoah Gyan had missed the penalty.