Why Luis Suarez is a villain in Ghana: Explaining the handball incident at the 2010 World Cup

Ghana will take on Uruguay in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which could see Luis Suarez face the Black Stars again. Portugal and South Korea are also in Group H, but the head-to-head against Uruguay will have some extra meaning for Ghana.

The two nations have only previously met once, in the quarterfinals of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. After a 1-1 draw, Uruguay won 4-2 in a penalty-kick shootout.

That match featured one of the most dramatic endings in World Cup history, with much controversy surrounding one of the turning points, with a then 23-year-old Suarez at the center of proceedings.

Over a decade since the incident, it still evokes passionate reaction and debate about sportsmanship and what could have been.

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Why Luis Suarez is a villain in Ghana

Ghana were on the verge of becoming the first African team to reach the semifinals of the World Cup, but an incident involving Suarez prevented them from achieving that objective.

After finishing in second place behind Germany in Group D of that 2010 World Cup, Ghana beat the USA in the Round of 16, 2-1 in extra time.

The subsequent quarterfinal clash against Uruguay, which had topped Group A ahead of France, Mexico and host South Africa, appeared to be a perfect opportunity for Ghana ti make history on African soil.

And it seized the moment when Sulley Muntari put the Black Stars ahead before halftime. But a Diego Forlan free kick got the Celeste even and the match went to extra time, when the drama unfolded.

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Suarez handball vs Ghana

In the closing stages of extra time, Ghana’s Steven Appiah shot at goal, and with the Uruguay goalkeeper beat, Suarez used his knee to block the ball on his own goal line. Dominic Adiyiah then headed the rebound on goal, where Suarez once again made the block, but this time with both hands.

The intentional Suarez handball prompted an automatic red card for him and a penalty for Ghana. With a chance to win the game and avoid a penalty kick shootout, Ghana forward Asamoah Gyan struck the crossbar on his penalty attempt, and Suarez celebrated the miss behind the benches.

The quarterfinal went to a penalty-kick shootout, where Uruguay emerged victorious 4-2, prompting Suarez to later remark that he had made “the save of the tournament.” Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac instead described Suarez’s actions as an “injustice”.

“I think it was just instinct,” Suarez said reflecting on the incident years later. “Any player would have done the same. Not just me. … My first reaction was to use my hand. Some people have accused me of a lack of sportsmanship, but I think it’s worse if a player suffers an injury when he’s stopped by a bad tackle when he’s about to score.”

Suarez served a red-card suspension for the semifinal match against the Netherlands, and the Uruguayans were ousted 3-2 in Cape Town. They also lost an eventual third-place match to Germany.

Ghana World Cup history

The 2022 World Cup will be Ghana’s fourth participation in the men’s event, all coming since 2006. That 2010 edition still stands as its best performance at the tournament.

2006

Ghana’s first participation came in Germany 2006 and it proved successful, as they advanced from Group E as runner-up behind Italy.

The African side lost against the Italians, but a win against the Czech Republic (goals by Gyan and Muntari) was followed by a dramatic win against the USA in a winner-take-all group finale. A Stephen Appiah penalty proved the game-winner in the 2-1 final.

The youngest team at the tournament then came up against Brazil in the Round of 16, losing 3-0 to a team that featured Ronaldinho, Kaka, Adriano, and Ronaldo.

2010

The 2010 Ghana team was led by prolific center forward Gyan, who had a talented cast in midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng, Andre Ayew and then Inter Milan midfielder Muntari.

The Black Stars advanced from the group stage on goal difference thanks to a win over Serbia (late Gyan penalty) and a draw against Australia (another Gyan penalty conversion).

Gyan also had the extra time winner against the USA in the Round of 16, but he couldn’t convert the extra time penalty against Uruguay which would have seen the Black Stars make history by advancing to the semis.

2014

It was a shorter World Cup adventure in Brazil, as Ghana finished in last place in Group G.

It was the Group of Death in which they drew eventual world champion Germany 2-2, and lost 2-1 to Portugal on the final matchday on a Cristiano Ronaldo goal 10 minutes from time. The costly result proved the opener against the USA which they lost 2-1, conceding a late winner mere minutes after equalizing.

2022

After seeing its streak of World Cup participations interrupted in 2018 — it finished third behind Egypt and Uganda in a qualifying group it needed to win — Ghana’s men earned a return trip. The team qualified for Qatar 2022 at Nigeria’s expense, advancing on the away goals tiebreaker following a 1-1 aggregate score.

Ghana will open 2022 group-stage action against Portugal on Nov. 24 before facing South Korea four days later. The Black Stars then close out against Uruguay on Dec. 2 in what could be a decisive match for both sides to determine passage to the knockout rounds.

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