Uruguay defeated Ghana Friday night, 4-2 on penalty kicks, to advance to the semifinals of the World Cup football tournament for the first time in 40 years. The teams had battled to a one-all draw after 120 minutes of football, forcing the penalty kick shootout.
It was a heartbreaking finish for "The Black Stars" of Ghana, who were bidding to become the first African team ever to make it to the final four of the sport's premier event.
Ghana's top striker, Asamoah Gyan, was in tears as he walked off the field. Gyan had a chance to win the game with the final kick of extra time. Uruguay's Luis Suarez was sent off for a handball on the line, and Gyan stepped up for the penalty kick. But he hit the crossbar with his shot, quieting the pro-Ghana crowd here of more than 84,000.
In the penalty kick shootout, Dominic Adiyiah and Ghana's team captain John Mensah both were stopped by Uruguay's goalkeeper Fernando Muslera. Sebastian Abreu sealed the victory for Uruguay with his kick.
Ghana took a one-nil lead just before halftime, when Sulley Muntari connected on a curling, 35-meter left-footed shot. But Uruguay's star striker Diego Forlan equalized in the 55th minute, with a 20-meter free kick that curled in from the left and just over Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson's outstretched hand. Forlan was at the center of Uruguay's attack and he was named Man of the Match.
Uruguay dominated much of the first half and created most of the scoring opportunities, but in the extra time period, Ghana had the advantage. "The Black Stars" were the lone African team remaining in this tournament, and as such, had the support of many Africans throughout the continent.
One of Ghana's biggest supporters is Abedi Pele, a former star for the national team and a three-time winner of the African Footballer of the Year award. He describes the loss to Uruguay as a crushing blow for both Ghana and Africa.
"It has been a terrible moment for the entire continent, not only our nation, but the entire continent," said Abedi Pele. "It has been a disaster, because we had all the chances in the world to win today's game."
Uruguay is a two-time World Cup champion, having won the title in 1950 and at the inaugural competition in 1930. The team moves on to a semifinal against the Netherlands on July sixth in Cape Town.
Earlier Friday, the Dutch rallied to surprise five-time champion Brazil, 2-1, in Port Elizabeth. Wesley Sneijder scored the game-winning goal on a close-range header in the 68th minute.
The Brazilians took an early one-nil lead on a goal by Robinho in the 10th minute. But, the Dutch pulled even in the 53rd minute, when Brazil's Felipe Melo scored an own goal after colliding with his goalkeeper Julio Cesar.
Brazil finished the match with 10 men, after Melo was sent off in the 73rd minute for stepping on Dutch player Arjen Robben.