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Ghana vs Uruguay: Luis Suarez, a handball & bitter World Cup rivalry explained

12:49 AM IST 02/12/22
Luis Suarez hand ball John Mensah Uruguay vs Ghana World Cup 2010
Luis Suarez is a figure of hate for some football fans in Ghana and is at the centre of the international rivalry

In the quarter-final of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Uruguay defeated Ghana in deeply controversial circumstances. The teams played out a 120-minute tie plus penalties and what unfolded during the game laid the groundwork for a fresh international football rivalry.

Ghana took the lead on the stroke of half time, through a 40-yard Sulley Muntari thunderbolt, but Diego Forlan levelled the score with a gorgeous free kick just after half-time.

So how exactly did Ghana and Uruguay become rivals? GOAL brings you everything you need to know.

Why are Uruguay and Ghana rivals in football?

Luis Suarez has been cast in the role of chief villain in the Ghana-Uruguay rivalry as, in the closing stages of extra time, after a goalmouth scramble, the Uruguayan striker used both of his hands to block Dominic Adiyah's goal-bound effort.

Suarez's deliberate handball prompted an automatic red card and a potentially decisive chance for Ghana in the form of a penalty kick. However, Ghana forward Asamoah Gyan smashed the spot kick off the top of the bar and over. The game subsequently went to penalties and Uruguay emerged as winners, triumphing 4-2 in the shootout.

Suarez's behaviour on the pitch, the ultimate rewards for his actions and his conduct in the aftermath incensed the nation of Ghana. Suarez and Uruguay have thus been sticking points for Ghana, so any time they meet, that historic game inevitably casts a shadow.

What has been said about the Luis Suarez handball?

The Suarez handball is widely considered one of the great sporting injustices perpetrated against Ghana, taking on similar significance as Diego Maradona's infamous 'Hand of God' in the eyes of England supporters, or Thierry Henry's handball for the Republic of Ireland.

When asked to recall the events of July 2, 2010, former Ghana defender John Paintsil told the BBC: "There's no African player who would have done that."

As if to rub salt into the wound, Suarez stopped in the tunnel to watch Ghana's penalty before exiting the pitch and was pictured celebrating with his teammates when Asamoah Gyan missed. The striker later claimed to have "made the best save of the tournament", a comment which served to compound the bitterness felt by the Ghana players and their fans.

Paintsil said: "After the penalty was missed you (Suarez) came out and then celebrated like you're on top of the world by hurting people. At least be a professional, feel the pain. Just go to your dressing room and celebrate and then nobody will see it."

On the other hand, Gyan admitted that he would have done the same thing if he was in Suarez's shoes. In an interview with talkSPORT he said: "I’m a football player and I do understand the game. Back home, everybody who watched the game, they dislike him.

“I always say if I was Suarez I would have done the same thing to save my country. He’s a hero there. Although people see him as a cheat, he did what he had to do to get his country to the semi-final.

“People do hate him, but I’m in the game as well. He did what he had to do to get his country to the semi-final."

Did Luis Suarez apologise for his handball vs Ghana?

Considering that Suarez appeared to revel in the initial notoriety - claiming that Maradona's hand belonged to him, for example - it is perhaps no surprise that he takes a dim view of the idea that he should have to apologise for the handball.

The former Barcelona and Liverpool star made his feelings on the matter very clear when asked ahead of the last-16 meeting between the teams at the 2022 World Cup.

"I didn't miss the penalty," the striker said bluntly when asked about being viewed as 'the devil himself'.

"Maybe if I injured the player I'd apologise, but in this situation I took a red card and the referee gave a penalty. It's not my fault. The player who missed the penalty (Gyan) said he'd do the same. It's not my responsibility to score the penalty"

Indeed, he impressed the idea of moving on, referencing the reconciliation between himself and Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini: "It's 12 years ago. It's the past. I've played against Chiellini too [who he bit in the 2014 World Cup], and we shook hands."