JOHANNESBURG - Ghana equalled the best
World Cup display by an African side to reach the quarter-finals
on Saturday while Uruguay stirred memories of past glory by also
making it into the last eight for the first time in 40 years.
In an otherwise miserable World Cup for Africa which lost
five of its six sides in the first round, the "Black Stars" beat
the United States 2-1 in a tight and pulsating encounter.
Ghana's win matched the feat of Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal
in 2002 who also went to the quarter-finals.
The Ghanaians danced for joy at the end, as ecstatic fans
trumpeted vuvuzelas in Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng stadium.
In a repeat of the score when they met in Germany four years
ago, Kevin-Prince Boateng drove home Ghana's first early in the
game before Landon Donovan replied with a second-half penalty.
Then in extra-time, Asamoah Gyan ran on to a high ball,
shrugged off a challenge and fired into the back of the net for
a winning goal that will never be forgotten in Ghana.
"I am the happiest man in the world," Gyan said. "God has
made me one of the best players in this tournament."
U.S. coach Bob Bradley lamented a "stinging, tough defeat."
For former champions Uruguay, who won the trophy way back in
1950 and 1930, a 2-1 win over South Korea on Saturday put them
in the quarter-finals for the first time in four decades.
Now they are hungry to go further.
"There are only 3 million people in Uruguay and we waited a
long time for this," said thrilled coach Oscar Tabarez.
"Here's hoping the party goes on!"
Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez slotted in an easy first goal
after Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong was caught hopelessly
out of position by an angled Diego Forlan cross.
The Asians fought back with spirit and equalised in the 68th
minute through Lee Chung-Yong, but as torrential rain swept the
lakeside stadium, Suarez swerved in a brilliant winner 10
minutes from time to spark jubilation back home.
"I was tired of hearing my grandparents always talk about
1950. Now it is our turn to celebrate and we are going to be
champions for sure," shouted Laura Silva, 22, running between
cars in the capital Montevideo, waving a big national flag.
The result confirmed the South American dominance that has
taken all their five teams into the knockout stage.
Passion in Chile over their passage to the last 16 even
overflowed into a riot, police firing tear gas and water cannon
at rowdy fans throwing flags and bottles among 50,000 people who
poured onto the streets on Friday night.
Only Japan are now still in from Asia.
For Europe, after the embarrassing first-round exits of
France and Italy, just six teams remain out of 13 starters.
Upcoming fixtures include a needle match between old rivals
Germany and England on Sunday for which police are beefing up
security in the central city of Bloemfontein.
Despite his region's triumphs in South Africa, Diego
Maradona - whose Argentina are one of the favourites - said
South America would never eclipse Europe as a football power.
"The best prize South America has is to know that we give
all the clubs in the world great players," he said.
"And (we ask) that when those players get to the national
teams, (the clubs) return them to us with the time and care with
which we hand them over to them."
Maradona's all-attacking Argentina, with world footballer of
the year Lionel Messi as their heartbeat, take on slick-passing
Mexico in Sunday's second highly-attractive fixture.
France's shameful first-round exit bottom of their group,
amid a players' revolt over the expulsion of striker Nicolas
Anelka for insulting the coach, brought disgust at home and
calls from President Nicolas Sarkozy down for a shake-up.
But football's world governing body FIFA warned French
politicians to keep out of football.
"There is an autonomy of the
sporting movement, and there can't be any political
interference," said FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke,
himself a Frenchman.
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