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Twelve and a half years ago in South Africa, Ghana were on the verge of making World Cup history. Tied at 1-1 with Uruguay heading into the closing stages of the encounter, Dominic Adiyiah looked set to score what would surely have been the winning goal - only to see Luis Suarez punch the ball clear on the goalline.
There was no VAR back then, but the on-field officials spotted the infringement, awarded Ghana a spot-kick and showed Suarez a red card. However, Asamoah Gyan missed from 12 yards and his team went on to lose the penalty shoot-out, denying Ghana the chance to become the first African nation to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup.
The last four is still a long way away in Qatar, but there will be plenty on the line when Ghana renew hostilities with Uruguay on Friday. A win for the Black Stars would send them through to the knockout phase; a draw, meanwhile, would be enough as long as South Korea do not beat Portugal.
For Uruguay, only a win will do - provided the Koreans are not triumphant, in which case it would come down to goal difference. The stakes could hardly be higher for what is a hotly anticipated match on the final day of the group stage at World Cup 2022.
Ghana have been one of the most entertaining teams at the tournament so far. They pushed Portugal all the way in a 3-2 loss on matchday one, then beat South Korea by the same scoreline last time out.
Only Spain, England and France scored more goals than the Black Stars in their first two games in Qatar. Otto Addo will certainly be pleased with how his players have acquitted themselves going forward so far.
Uruguay are on the brink of a group stage exit, which would be its first since 2002. A country of 3.5 million continues to punch above its weight in terms of both the production of players and tournament performances, but the Celeste have yet to get going this winter. Anything less than a win here would send them home before the round of 16.
That would be a huge blow to a team that were seen as a potential outsider to triumph by fans and the best online sportsbooks alike. Uruguay began their campaign with a disappointing 0-0 draw with South Korea in which both sides canceled one another out. A 2-0 loss to Portugal on matchday two has left Diego Alonso’s side with the ground to make up in Group H.
The Uruguay boss is still searching for the right balance. The 4-3-3 formation he used against South Korea did not offer Uruguay enough of an attacking threat, with Suarez easily handled by the opposition center-halves.
Uruguay switched to a 3-5-2 formation against Portugal, pairing Darwin Nunez with Edinson Cavani up top. But they only started playing in the second half when they were 1-0 down. Uruguay should have shown more ambition when the score was still 0-0, even if they did create openings in the final 20 minutes or so.
There will need to be more urgency to their play here, but do not expect Uruguay to come out all guns blazing at the Al Janoub Stadium.
Because of the events of 2010, Ghana will have extra motivation for this potentially decisive clash. It is important that they channel it in the right way. Controlled aggression is one thing, but Addo cannot afford to have players booked or sent off because they are unable to keep their emotions in check.
Uruguay will look to control the game in the center of midfield, where a trio of Fede Valverde, Rodrigo Bentancur and Mateos Vecino provides plenty of quality. But Ghana are also strong in that part of the pitch. Thomas Partey has been quietly effective so far, while Mohammed Kudus has been their standout performer.
Ghana have plenty of energy and dynamism within their ranks, and they will look to use that to their advantage against opponents who have looked labored and one-paced in both of their matches to date. If Ghana can quicken the tempo at the right moments, they should get some joy.
Uruguay will not give up without a fight and we can expect them to keep battling until the final whistle. But while Ghana are far from perfect, they have shown enough quality so far to make them worth backing to avoid defeat by the two-time world champions.
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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