Luis Suarez was at his brilliant best for Uruguay before those nasty South Koreans made him cry. Justice – of sorts – for Ghana.
Absolute justice for Ghana would have been Andre Ayew scoring his early penalty and that being enough to send Luis Suarez home. But the distraught Uruguayan’s tears at the end of a 2-0 win in which he played brilliantly, will have added a sweetness to what was also a sour afternoon for the Africans.
It was Uruguay who were heading into the last 16 for an hour on Friday, only for South Korea to beat Portugal in stoppage time and send them through on goals scored. With that game around five minutes ahead of the other, Uruguay still had around 15 minutes to score a goal which would have put them back in second place on goal difference, at a point where Ghana needed two to go through on head-to-head. It was another brilliantly bonkers last round of games in what has turned out to be a thoroughly entertaining group phase.
Suarez’s tears on the bench were mimicked by South Korean fans in the stand down the road. They had watched their team go a goal down to a weakened Portugal team (which is sure to currently be boiling Uruguayan p*ss) and fight to come back through a five-yard pass from hero Son Heung-min in the 91st minute and a low finish from Hwang Hee-chan, who came back to fitness just in time to score from the bench.
There won’t be a great deal of sympathy for Uruguay, who are led by Suarez, were very average in the first two games, and are led by Suarez.
He was excellent though; pumped up against a nation who have made him a voodoo doll for the last 12 years. The deja vu of an early missed penalty, with Ayew playing the part of predecessor Asomoah Gyan, only seemed to boost Suarez’s unapologetic desire to have further pins pushed into him. And his passion, so frequently made apparent through skulduggery, is rubbing off on Darwin Nunez.
With their eyes fixed on The Devil, the Ghana players failed to keep tabs on Antichrist-in-the-making Nunez as he scuffed up the penalty spot ahead of Ayew’s miss, before the Liverpool man played dumb, lifting his hands to his face in astonishment at being shown a yellow card. Suarez was looking on all the while, proud as punch.
But it was the actual football part of The Football where Suarez and Nunez made Ghana truly suffer. It was Nunez to Suarez to Giorgian de Arrascaeta for both goals. Suarez’s shot after Nunez’s cross was parried into De Arrascaeta’s path in the 26th minute, for a goal made more scruffy by the beauty and skill of the second.
Nunez perfectly cushioned a header to Suarez on the edge of the box having had the ball fizzed into him, before Suarez looped a pass over his shoulder and into the path of De Arrascaeta, who volleyed under the goalkeeper.
It was a proper, good old-fashioned case of strikers working in tandem. No false nine or number ten nonsense, just one striker playing up top with another striker, each of them looking for the other, both causing chaos.
It took until the third group game for Diego Alonso to find a system and style of play to get the best out of Suarez and Nunez, and all too late, with the far more amiable South Korea now set for the last 16, where they will – barring a miracle – take on Brazil.
That was the people’s hope, many of whom’s amiration for Suarez, Nunez and Uruguay is grudging, if indeed they admire them at all. And it was certainly the hope of Ghana fans for the last few minutes, who when they knew it wouldn’t be them, prayed for it not to be Uruguay.