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World Cup: Uruguay beats Ghana in shootout

Africa's hopes dashed as Uruguay wins in penalty shootout.

World Cup 2010, Ghana loss
Ghana's Asamoah Gyan (Left) reacts after missing a penalty kick during extra time in the 2010 World Cup quarter-final soccer match against Uruguay at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg July 2, 2010. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Asamoah Gyan had it all on his right foot. Triumph for Ghana. Glory for Africa.

With a penalty kick awarded to Ghana in the last seconds of its quarterfinals encounter with Uruguay, the Black Stars’ star striker took a couple of steps and sent a powerful shot smack on the cross bar, shattering the continent’s hopes of a first semifinal spot for an African team in World Cup history.

After Ghana’s missed opportunity, the two teams proceeded to the dreaded penalty kicks session. Ghana missed two. Uruguay missed one and reached the World Cup’s last four for the first time in 40 years. Ghana’s players tumbled to the ground one by one and struggled to get back up.

“There was a penalty in the end, but we weren’t lucky,” said Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac. “It was bad luck. It’s all I can say.”

Uruguay will now face the Netherlands in Cape Town on Tuesday after the Dutch stunned favorite Brazil in a 2-1 victory.

In the almost full 90,000-seat Soccer City stadium, the sea of Ghanaian flags overpowered the few small pockets of sky-blue Uruguayan supporters. While Ghana’s every attacking move elicited oohs and aahs from the crowd, Uruguay’s attempts were met with near silence.

Ghana was seeking to become the first African team to make it to the World Cup semifinal stage. But if Ghana was trying to write history, Uruguay was attempting to repeat it.

Uruguay was an early powerhouse of world soccer, winning the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and repeating the feat in 1950, but the nation of 3.5 million — the smallest left in the tournament — hadn’t reached the semifinals since 1970.

Consequently, El Pais, a leading Uruguayan daily, deemed Friday’s clash the most important soccer game for the country over the past 40 years. Banks, public offices, buses and taxis closed early or reduced service during the game. Anticipation was great, but the Montevideo newspaper warned against the danger of euphoria.

“If the national squad is ranked among the best eight of the World Cup but does not finish first, it will now seem like a national failure,” El Pais said in an editorial.