Ghana will be out to exact revenge on Luis Suarez and Uruguay when the two sides meet in their crunch final group stage game on Saturday morning (AEDT). The Ghanaians know a win against the South Americans will be enough to seal their progress to the knockout stage in what shapes as a spicy rematch between the two countries.
The Ghanaians will have specifically pencilled in this match when the draw for the World Cup came out, knowing it presented a glorious chance to gain justice against Suarez, who was behind one of the most controversial World Cup moments in recent history. However, 12 years on from that infamous handball that helped knock Ghana out of the 2010 World Cup, Suarez still refuses to apologise.
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Suarez was almost universally condemned during the 2010 tournament when he committed an intentional handball to save a goal in extra time of their thrilling quarter-final victory over Ghana. The Uruguayan was red-carded for the professional foul, which ultimately turned out to be a masterstroke - albeit one of dubious sportsmanship.
With the scores level and Suarez standing as the last line of defence after a Steven Appiah shot was destined for the back of the net, the Uruguayan threw his arm up to block the ball, knowing full well his intentional handball would result in a red card. Incredibly, Asamoah Gyan stepped up to take the match-winning penalty but hit the crossbar for Ghana.
The rest is history as Uruguay held on to take the game into extra time, before famously triumphing in a penalty shootout. The result was a bitter pill to swallow for Ghana, who experienced a burning sense of injustice after seeing their World Cup dreams ended in such contentious circumstances.
In contrast, Suarez became an overnight hero in his homeland while Ghana missed out on becoming the first-ever African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals. Twelve years later, asked whether he knew that Ghanaians viewed him as the "devil", Suarez said he had no regrets about the scandalous incident.
"I don't say I apologise about that because I take the handball but the Ghana player missed the penalty, not me," said Suarez, speaking in broken English.
"Maybe I can say I apologise if I tackle and injure a player and take a red card, maybe I can apologise. But in this situation I take a red card, the referee said 'penalty'. It's not my fault because I did not miss the penalty, the player missed the penalty."
'The whole of Africa hates' Luis Suarez
Speaking before the rematch, former Ghana midfielder Ibrahim Ayew - who was a substitute during the match in question - claimed the whole of Africa would be behind his countrymen when they take on Uruguay in Qatar. He claims the scenes of Suarez wildly celebrating Asamoah's missed spot kick only served to fuel the hatred against the Uruguayan even further.
“The whole of Ghana hates him and the whole of Africa hates him,” Ayew said. "Oh yes,” he added with a slight chuckle. “We hate him. And we want revenge.”
Ghana captain Andre Ayew is the only current member of the squad that played in that infamous match but insists that revenge is not his side's prime motivation. He says regardless of what happened to his country against Uruguay in the past, their focus in the do-or-die final group stage game is the same.
“Everyone felt bad but for me I just want to get to the next stage,” he told reporters in Qatar after a thrilling 3-2 win over South Korea earlier this week. "Revenge or not, we would go with the same determination and desire to win because we want to get to the next stage. I am not looking back, I don’t want to focus on the past.”
Ghana has a great chance to send Uruguay home with Portugal already qualified for the knockout rounds and just the one Round of 16 spot still available in Group H. The Ghanaians sit in second spot with three points, with Uruguay tied for third with South Korea on one point.
If Ghana wins or draws against Uruguay, it will send the South Americans packing at the knockout stages for the first time since 2002. Ghana would move on to the round of 16 for the first time since 2010.
While some of Ghana's squad are keen to play down the revenge element of their rematch against Uruguay, the country's president Nana Akufo-Addo has lit the fuse for a potentially spiteful match saying: “We’ve had to wait for 12 years to get revenge against Uruguay — and we assure them that this time the hand of Suarez will not save them against the Black Stars of Ghana. They are going down!”
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