19/04/2024

Valverde lays in despair after being eliminated from the 2022 FIFA World Cup (Image: Uruguay national team)

A six-minute brace from Flamengo winger Giorgian De Arrascaeta was enough to overcome Ghana on Saturday morning, however, it wasn’t enough to see Uruguay through to the round of 16.

The game started with two fast-paced midfields working each other over and looking for the chance to go on top in what was described as a ‘win and go through’ clash.

It was a fiery contest, Ghana quite clearly still feeling the scars from the 2010 Quarter Final in South Africa.

Ghanaian Captain André Ayew was awarded an early penalty but wasted it with a poor attempt that was easily handled by Sergio Rochet in the Uruguayan net.

Just five minutes later, De Arrascaeta had his first and then doubled his tally in the 32nd minute. Diego Alonso’s men controlled the remainder of the opening half and had one hand on second place in Group G.

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The second half saw Ghana grow into the contest, holding onto the ball and looking more likely in attack. It relentlessly peppered the Uruguayan defence who were withstanding and happy to hold onto their lead.

Content with defending their lead, and assumedly locking their spot in the Round of 16, Uruguay substituted off its three most likely attackers. Luis Suárez, Darwin Núñez, and sole goal scorer Giorgian De Arrascaeta all made their way to the bench before the 80th minute.

It was just moments later that the stadium found out South Korea had scored again and was leading Portugal 2-1, leapfrogging Uruguay into second place on goal difference.

Left with six minutes of regulation time, the Sky Blues needed a solitary goal to make the knockout rounds.

With nine minutes of stoppage time added, the final 15 minutes were a frantic back and forth where both teams were desperate to score, and goalkeepers from both sides made several remarkable saves.

As the decision to bring off his star attackers grew worse in hindsight, Diego Alonso could only watch and hope talismanic striker Edinson Cavani could pull off the impossible.

Aware of the equation, Ghana slowed the ball at every chance and did everything to deny its opposition the chance to score, payback for Suarez’s handball in 2010.

An Uruguay free-kick would be the final kick of the game, 25 yards out and directly in front. It would be one of the most important kicks in the Sky Blues’ history.

Nicolás de la Cruz made poor connection as he kicked it right into Lawrence Ati’s gloves and the match ended 2-0, and both sides were eliminated.

Uruguayan legend Luis Suárez was inconsolable from the bench as time wore down and the realisation hit he’d reached the end of his World Cup career, even staying planted on the bench for minutes after the final whistle.

2022 is the first World Cup that Suarez has played in but failed to score, it’s also his first time being eliminated in the Group Stage. Almost certainly not playing at the North American edition in 2026, he finishes his World Cup career with 16 appearances and seven goals over his four tournaments.

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