Today in history: ‘The Hand of God’ touched and left a hole in the hearts of Africans

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On this day 2 July 2010 (Exactly 10 years ago today), Uruguay after a 1-1 game defeated Ghana 4-2 on penalties at the Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg to book a place in the semifinal of the World Cup.

The game had a frenzy and dramatic end. Nobody could have written the script for what was to happen in the closing stages of game.

Ghana came into the game hoping to become the first African side to reach the last four of the World Cup, whiles Uruguay were hoping to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1970.

Uruguay started the game brightly and created the best chances of the half, Ghana had offered almost nothing in attack until Isaac Vorsah headed wide from a corner just before the half-hour mark.

Gyan then narrowly missed after the industrious Kevin-Prince Boateng picked him out in front of the deep-sitting Uruguay defence with a square ball, while Mutari headed wide after latching on to a raking pass.

Even so, it looked as though the match would be goalless at the break until Muntari, gifted the time to assess his options, unleashed a vicious 40-yard strike that caught Muslera off guard, 1-0 to Ghana at the break.

Uruguay started the second half like they started the first, Edinson Cavani felt he should have been awarded a penalty after he went down under a challenge from Vorsah.

Diego Forlan in the 55th minute restored parity for Uruguay with a spectator free kick from the edge of the box.

Ghana from then had repeated opportunities to strike on the counter, but they wasted a series of excellent positions with poor pass selection, while Gyan tangled repeatedly with several different members of the Uruguay defence.

The game went into extra time and after an evenly contested first 25 minutes of extra time, Ghana dominated the closing minutes as the Uruguayans were visibly tired.

The pressure paid off when Ghana were awarded a penalty in the final minute of extra time, Suárez blatantly blocked a goal bound header from Dominic Adiyiah with his hands, a penalty was awarded and a red card was shown to Suarez.

Asamoah Gyan failed to convert the resulting spot kick as his wild effort struck the crossbar. Suárez celebrated the miss as the entire African continent was left crestfallen. 

In the penalty shootouts, Gyan found the fortitude to take and score the first penalty mere minutes after missing the most important kick of his career. Skipper Stephen Appiah also converted his kick, whiles John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah missed their kicks.

For Uruguay, Diego Forlan, Mauricio Victorino, Andres Scotti and Sebastian Abreu converted their kicks, whiles Maximiliano Pereira was the only Uruguay player who missed his kick.

Uruguay won the spot kick 4-2 and advanced to the semifinal to face the Netherlands.

After the match, Suarez was rather proud of what he had done.

“The Hand of God now belongs to me. Mine is the real Hand Of God,” he said, referencing Maradona’s iconic goal against England in 1986.

“I made the best save of the tournament. Sometimes in training I play as a goalkeeper, so it was worth it. There was no alternative but for me to do that and when they missed the penalty I thought, ‘It is a miracle and we are alive in the tournament’.”

To Uruguayans he was a “hero”, but to Africans and other football fans he’s a “villain”, a “cheat” and a penchant of evil deeds.

Lineups for the game:

Ghana: Richard Kingson, John Painstil, Hans Adu Sarpei, John Mensah, Isaac Vorsah, Anthony Annan, Kevin Prince Boateng, Sulley Muntari/Domin Adiyiah, Kwadwo Asamoah, Asamoah Gyan, Samuel Inkoom/Stephen Appiah 

Uruguay: Fernando Muslero, Diego Lugano, Jorge Fucile, Mauricio Victorino, Edinson Cavani/Sebastiene Abreu, Louis Suarez, Diego Forlan, Diego Perez, Maximilano Pereira,Egidio Arevalo, Alvaro Fernandez 

Highlights of the game:

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