Uruguay relish win, but count the cost

Topics

JOHANNESBURG - Uruguay's usually eloquent coach Oscar Tabarez was almost at a loss for words after his team's nail-biting duel with Ghana saw the South Americans reach the World Cup semi-finals for the first time in 40 years.

When he gathered his emotions, he spoke like a man who had run through a fire and survived.

"I am the coach, I am a professional, and even so, I lack the necessary calm to carry out an objective analysis," he said.

"Our rival was tough. The game was very difficult, we didn't play well. We were lucky and luck is important."

The Uruguayans confronted a fast, powerful Ghana who had just about all the 84,000 fans packed into Johannesburg's Soccer City as well the rest of the African continent behind them.

It took all of the Uruguayans legendary grit, a brilliant goal by talismanic striker Diego Forlan, and a remarkable twist of fate at the end to see them through.

With the score at 1-1 in the dying seconds of extra time, Uruguay striker Luis Suarez stopped a certain goal by handling on the line.

He was sent off and Ghana were awarded a penalty, but Asamoah Gyan hit the bar and the match went into a shootout which Uruguay won 4-2.

The controversy, and sadness elsewhere at the exit of Africa's last team, did not diminish the joy in the Uruguayan camp and back home across the Atlantic Ocean.

The victory sealed Uruguay's best World Cup run in 40 years and set off an explosion of celebration in a country desperate for a return to the glory days when La Celeste twice won the trophy.

The national pride and frenzy is also driving on the players.

"Let the people party and enjoy this. We will rest and prepare for Tuesday," said Forlan as he left the pitch, his sky-blue shirt turned dark with sweat.

The victory was all the more sweet as arch-rival and neighbour Brazil - a country with more than 50 times Uruguay's 3.5 million population - were knocked out by the Netherlands. Uruguay will play the Dutch in the semi-final on Tuesday.

PRICE TO PAY

"Those who believe in fate or destiny might be able to explain. I don't believe in fate or destiny," said Tabarez, who is known as The Master due to his days as a school teacher.

"We did what we had to, we won without playing brilliantly. For many years we haven't had a victory like this. We will face the Netherlands with the same enthusiasm. We hope to be able to play a better kind of football."

Although the coach said the team did not play as well as it could, it was not all down to luck. Forlan, who has emerged as one of the stars of the tournament, was indefatigable up front even at the age of 31.

Egidio Arevalo in midfield battled for every ball. And substitute Sebastian Abreu showed complete disregard for the drama of the occasion when he cheekily chipped in the last penalty to decide the tie.

However, there was a price to pay. Suarez, whose strike partnership with Forlan has netted three goals apiece in South Africa, will miss the semi-final due to his red card. Defender Jorge Fucile's second yellow card means he also will sit it out.

Inspirational captain Diego Lugano, the pillar of a defence that has conceded only two goals in the tournament, limped off injured just before half time.

"I don't know how far we can go," Tabarez said. "The Netherlands is a great side, they have brilliant players. If there is a glimmer of hope, we will not throw in the towel before we go on the pitch."

Follow FFT.com on Twitter Join FFT.com on Facebook