Revenge on star striker Luis Suarez, retaliation for 2010: In Ghana there is only one topic before the group final against Uruguay. That one handball. Even the President gets involved and chooses drastic words. The interim coach Otto Addo meanwhile tries to dim the emotions.
Luis Suarez threw up his arms, somehow smacked Dominic Adiyiah's header off the goal line - and in a second became the nemesis of a whole continent. For twelve long years, the memory of the handball of the Uruguayan superstar, of the dramatic loss in the quarter-finals of the World Cup, tormented the Ghanaian football soul. But now the signs are pointing to revenge, Suarez should finally pay.
"All of Ghana hates him and all of Africa hates him," former international Ibrahim Ayew told The Athletic portal, adding with a smile: "And we want revenge." The opportunity has never been better, fate brings them together again in a game where everything is at stake. With a win in the Group H final on Friday (4 p.m. in the ntv.de live ticker, ZDF and MagentaTV), Ghana could shoot Suarez and Co. out of the tournament - and even move into the round of 16 from Qatar.
Ayew, the brother of Jordan and Andre, who are part of the current squad, stood on the sidelines as a substitute as Suarez shook Ghana's footballing world on 2 July 2010 in Johannesburg. In the last minute of extra time, the notorious attacker scrambled to stop the 2-1 winner, saw a red card and, en route to the catacombs, was ecstatic as Asamoah Gyan missed a shot to nail the ensuing penalty to the bar. He didn't apologize for his action, Suarez said: "It wasn't my fault because I didn't miss the penalty." But Ghana was broken and lost on penalties. Some might say he's "the devil himself," Suarez said. But before the renewed duel one could "not focus on revenge, that could be counterproductive".
But the pain of not being the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals is so deep that even Ghana's president felt compelled to make a statement ahead of the big reunion at Al Janoub Stadium. "We've had to wait 12 years for a rematch against Uruguay - and we assure you that the hand of Suarez won't save them this time against the Black Stars of Ghana," stressed Nana Akufo-Addo, predicting: "They will go down !"
Otto Addo would never express himself like that. "The incident happened a long time ago," said Ghana's Hamburg-born interim coach, praised by his players as the engine behind the current World Cup success: "I think you get more blessings if you don't seek revenge." He "approaches the game like any other". Addo's captain Andre Ayew, the only player left from 2010, sounded similar. Of course, "everybody felt bad at the time, but I just want to get to the next round, so it's not revenge for me, no".
The explosive game will be directed by the Berlin referee Daniel Siebert, who could possibly have a lot of work to do in his second appearance in the desert. After all, Uruguay's national team around the aging and hitherto weak Suarez (35) and Edinson Cavani (35) are not exactly known for being gentle with their opponents. Especially since the South Americans absolutely have to win - and then still depend on the parallel game of the Portuguese against South Korea.