Saturday, 3 July 2010

Hands, Lines & Montevideo Tape

Like an idiot I had bemoaned the fact that Holland-Brazil was the afternoon game yesterday and Ghana-Uruguay was the evening kick-off.

But what a game of football the latter offering turned out to be. The outcome of the game may have been slightly different to what I had predicted – a 3-0 Uruguay win – but it was one hell of a game for the neutral.

It had it all: drama, excitement, emotion and controversy, or the exact opposite of an England game if you prefer.

Going in to the game I must have been the only person outside of Montevideo who was supporting Uruguay.

Why was I cheering on the South Americans? There are a few reasons. First of all, they’ve really impressed me thus far in this tournament, strong at the back and dangerous going forward, it’s a rare duality that we’ve not seen too much of in South Africa. Forlan and co. have been nothing but entertaining in their earlier games, which is more than we can say about Ghana.

I’m sorry, but I just didn’t buy in to the romance of an African team doing well in Africa – maybe it’s the giant cynic that lives inside me but I’d rather watch good football, and to me that just isn’t Ghana.

The pro-Ghana bias going into the game was off the charts and it made me sick to see all these bandwagon jumpers feigning support for the last African team standing. It galled me far more than all the England hysteria that was smashed to smithereens just under a week ago.

Thus, I decided to cheer on the pantomime villains of last night, and they were wearing sky blue.

Ghana, in my opinion, have been (with the exception of the dire Algeria) the least entertaining of the African nations at this World Cup and were lucky to even be there last night.

They didn’t score a goal from open play in the group stages, relying on 2 penalties to sneak through to the second round (I refuse to call it ‘The Round of 16’) and then needed 120 minutes to scrape past the Americans.
Uruguay-Holland will be a much better Semi-Final than if Ghana had gone through, at least from a pure footballing perspective.

Ghana were outclassed for most of the game last night but got their noses in front through a wonder goal from Muntari just before half time, which meant that we were subjected to more of the campest black man in the world: Marcel Desailly’s ‘hilarious’ antics in the ITV studio at half-time.

I’m convinced ITV have only had Desailly on as pundit for this World Cup so they can mock him mercilessly and fill some air time.

Ten minutes into the second half Uruguay were level through a goal equally as masterful, if not better, than the first through their man of the tournament thus far Diego Forlan.

I thought a Uruguay goal would knock the stuffing out of both the Ghanaian team and fans, but credit where it’s due, the vuvuzelas may have fallen silent briefly but they were soon back in full annoying sonic boom as the African’s eternal optimism and never-say-die attitude kicked into overdrive.

90 minutes couldn’t sort them out which prompted extra time and led to the controversy that has marred the spectacular game of football we witnessed.

With the last attack of the game Ghana were awarded a free kick, which wasn’t actually a free kick – the Ghanaian player tripped over his own legs – but nonetheless, the free kick came over and after a scramble in the box and a bit of pin ball, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez swatted the ball off the line with his hand preventing a certain goal that would have sunk Uruguay.

The ref awarded Ghana a penalty – which boiled down to this: score and you’re through, miss and it’s penalties.

Up stepped Asamoah Gyan, the man who had previously scored Ghana’s 2 penalties in the competition… and he crashed it against the crossbar.

The penalty shoot-out ended in victory for the Uruguayans thanks to the most audacious penalty I’ve ever seen and then the faux-outrage began.

Yes, Suarez cheated and he was duly punished by being sent-off, Ghana blew their chance to punish him further by missing their penalty. Uruguay then won the penalty shoot-out fair and square.

Yet people are comparing what Suarez did to Maradona’s hand of God. This is simply because it was against Ghana, if a Ghanaian player had done this I have no doubt some moronic people would be praising his intelligence.

In their condemnation of the most-hated Uruguayan since last Sunday, people are conveniently forgetting that the free kick that led to the hand ball wasn’t even a free kick and that the ref robbed Uruguay of at least 2 penalties during the course of the game due to bogus officiating.

I got the impression that the ref was weak last night, under the pressure of an emotionally charged continent. If the shoe had been on the other foot and he’d awarded Uruguay a dodgy free kick that led to this incident then we’d have had no end of abuse against the official but as it is, no one has batted an eye lid.

My decision to support Uruguay last night was vilified this morning as I logged into Facebook and twitter and saw comments like “I’m more upset about Ghana going out than I was about England”.

In addition to comments like the above, which make you wonder if we need a second great flood, there are people scapegoating Suarez as the embodiment of everything that is wrong with modern football. Kind of ridiculous when you consider that we have seen some of the most flagrant diving and play acting of all time in other games at this World Cup.

Football is an emotive sport and this piece is definitely Uruguay-biased, but hey, someone has to defend the bad guy.

I’m like Johnny Cochrane – defending a guy who is blatantly guilty of committing a crime with his hands – but when you are surrounded by a World of fickle, bandwagon jumping, flavour of the week tasting idiots you kind of feel compelled to.


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