Gyan’s World Cup failure: Africa reminded of what might have been

Luis Suarez remains denigrated for denying the continent her historic moment, but has the decade-long castigation been misdirected?

You’d forgive Luis Suarez for avoiding social media on July 2, owing to the deluge of abuse that may come his way on the anniversary of Ghana’s painful exit at the 2010 World Cup.

It’s exactly 11 years since the Uruguay forward’s deliberate handball at Soccer City prevented Ghana from advancing to the semi-final of the global showpiece. The blatant act, deep into extra time, denied Africa her first representative in the last four of the month-long competition at the 19th time of asking.

The Black Stars had matched the achievement of Cameroon and Senegal in 1990 and 2002 respectively in reaching the quarter-final, but they could and should have gone one better.

They were awfully close, even closer than the Indomitable Lions — who were seven minutes away from success over England before Gary Lineker’s 83rd-minute leveller — and debuting Teranga Lions, who thrived until Ilhan Mansiz’s golden goal three minutes into extra time put paid to their amazing journey.

With little time remaining, Oscar Tabarez’s team wouldn’t have recovered from what was possibly the final kick of the game. Suarez denied Stephen Appiah and the entire continent their headline moment but what followed immediately after rankled at the time and continues to…even 11 years on.

Luis Suarez Uruguay Ghana 2010 WOrld Cup

Asamoah Gyan stepped up but could only hit the bar, causing Ghanaians and the majority of the continent to cover their eyes in horror.

A few inches lower and the West African nation would have gone on to face eventual runners-up The Netherlands in Cape Town.

It was going to be hard to pick themselves up after that last-gasp miss and Milovan Rajevac’s team went on to lose 4-2 on penalties. Ask the majority of Africans today and they probably don’t remember how events played out following that miss.