It was another crunch quarter-final match for Ghana in a world cup. It almost got down to penalty kicks, which have been the nemesis of Ghana football in countless tournaments. But a seemingly feeble header from Liberty Professionals’ Ebenezer Assifuah, went through two Chilean defenders, who could have undone that goal-bound ball by just saving it with their hands. A penalty could have been awarded and that could have tilted the balances in Chile’s way given past experiences. It was going to be 50-50.
The incident on Sunday sent my memories back to the crunch 2010 World Cup quarter-final match between Ghana and Uruguay. The Black Stars had taken the lead through Sulley Ali Muntari at Johannesburg’s Soccer City. However, a second half sublime freekick from Diego Forlan – who was eventually named Player of the Tournament – beat Richard Kingson to get the Uruguayans an all-important equaliser. The tension-filled match travelled into extra time. In the last minutes, a goal-bound header from Dominic Adiyiah was parried from goal by Luis Suarez which presented a golden opportunity for Ghana to make history by being the first African nation to reach the semi-final of a FIFA World Cup. What happened after that is history! But anytime I watch a replay of that scene – and you also do the next time – my focus goes on Kevin-Prince Boateng, who was kicking the air while the goal-mouth melee was going on, telling the passion he wanted to see that ball in. By the way, Suarez’s hand ball painted him in bad light among Ghanaians and many football-loving fans across the world though his nation awarded him for that. It was simply because the resultant penalty kick after he was red-carded was missed by Asamoah Gyan, whose nightmares from that missed penalty and another in an Africa Cup of Nations later sent him into temporary international retirement.
I thought there could have been a repeat of that in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup quarter final match between Ghana and Chile if the Chilean defenders had handled the ball.
Ghana had taken the lead in the 11th minute through Moses Odjer, the youngest player of the tournament. However, two quick goals from Nicolas Castillo and Angelo Henriquez saw the Ghanaians chasing the game. A goal from Ebenezer Assifuah in the dying minutes of the second half forced the match into extra time. The Chileans through Henriquez went 3-2 ahead in extra time pushing the Black Satellites to the corner. However, Seidu Salifu’s all-important equaliser in the ding-dong pressure match gave the Satellites the impetus to fight to the last drop of their blood.
An unrelenting run by Anderlecht’s Frank Acheampong in the dying minute saw his ball reach the head of Ebenezer Assifuah, whose harmless effort saw the ball go through two Chilean defenders, who were not visited by a ‘Suarez Muse’ and shoved away their hands to find the dagger go deeply through their hearts. They had lost a match which was favorably theirs by several indications.
However, the 4-3 victory saw wild jubilation across Ghana, a country that had hitherto been indifferent to this Satellites team.
I was thinking if a ‘Suarez Muse’ had visited the Chilean defenders there and then, Ghana might have lost the match. For now, let’s pray that we revenge the French defeat on Wednesday.