World Cup 2010: Ghana’s heartbreak at the hands of Luis Suarez

Gyan after missing his penalty
Gyan after missing his penalty / Image by Briony Painter - 90min

If there was a World Cup an African team looked capable of making a historic semi-final appearance, then it was at the 2010 South Africa tournament with the official song 'Waka Waka' (This time for Africa)' being on constant radio rotation.

Ghana, who were making their second appearance in the tournament, were keen to latch onto the theme of Shakira's song and become the first African side to reach the last four - having reached the second round in their maiden appearance four years earlier.

Many believed that The Black Stars overachieved at the 2006 World Cup, having made it out of a group containing Italy, Czech Republic and the USA before being knocked out in the round of 16 by Brazil.

Harry Symeou hosts Semra Hunter, Andy Headspeath & Toby Cudworth to look back on South Africa '10 as part of the 'Our World Cups' series. We take a trip down memory lane - join us!

The performances put Ghanaian football on the map, and their avenging of the defeat to Brazil three years later in the final of the U20 World Cup solidified them as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.

Five players from that golden Under-20 squad, including Captain Andre Ayew, were rushed to the senior team and the strategy paid off. The youngsters played key roles in the Stars reaching the quarter-finals of the first ever World Cup on African soil - although Asamoah Gyan, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sulley Muntari were the real stars of the team.

"Luiz Suarez's hand denied Adiyiah a certain goal, but gifted Gyan an opportunity to seal his place in African football history with one spot kick. "

Their progress to the last eight was a special moment for Africa because the continent's four other representatives had been knocked out - providing ammunition for most Africans to show profound solidarity with the Black Stars.

Cameroon and Senegal had previously reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup but none of them got quite as close to the semi-final stage as the Black Stars did. But for the dramatic clash with Uruguay at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, this perhaps my most memorable moment of the tournament, the Ghana would’ve progressed further than ever before. 

I thought the Black Stars had made history when Muntari handed Ghana the lead, but Diego Forlan's equaliser dazed me and the Ghanian team, forcing the game into extra time. 

Luis Suarez
Suarez's handball / Michael Steele/GettyImages

Deep into extra time, Luiz Suarez's hand denied Adiyiah a certain goal, but gifted Gyan an opportunity to seal his place in African football history with one spot kick.

Unfortunately, Gyan blasted his attempt against the crossbar and left millions of Africans in utter disbelief. My feet went numb for a moment. There was complete silence throughout my neighborhood. An entire continent was in shock that he had missed - shock which drifted into sadness and then, for some at least, resentment for the forward.

Ghana ultimately lost 4-2 in the penalty shootout; Gyan made amends converting the opening kick but that wasn't enough. After the fact, Gyan faced criticism for preventing Captain Stephen Appiah for taking the 120th minute penalty kick.

“It’s true he killed us, he killed our dream, he killed Africans’ dream, and all have that feeling that he didn’t make us the first [African] country to get to the semi-finals, so that will always be there," Ayew, now the nation's captain, was quoted by Joy Sports Ghana on the Luis Suarez incident. 

The continent’s dream never transpired, regardless, the 2010 World Cup was a beautiful tournament. And sometimes, it’s okay for fairytales to end in a mildly disappointing fashion.

Regardless of the result, Ghana certainly did us proud.