Upstart Takes on the World (Cup): Day 23

3 July 2010

Written by: Evan Harding

Lex Luther. Darth Vader. The Wicked Witch of the West. Richard III. And now to that list we can add Uruguay.

Well, Brazilians could probably add Felipe Melo, whose night involved an own goal to allow the Oranje back into the game and a red card which sealed the Seleção’s fate; Dunga, whose tactics have drawn criticism for four years; and the Dutch. But their particular pill is easier to swallow – beaten fair and square. Ghana? Not so much.

A famous politician once said, ‘Win if you can, lose if you must, but always cheat.’

That politician was Jesse ‘The Body’ Ventura and in the early hours of this morning the Uruguayans pulled out a heel victory as good as anything ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair ever did (without it ever being as entertaining as Naitch). Specifically, Luis Suarez was the villain, but only because Jorge Fucile failed in his own attempt to write himself into infamy.

It was 1-1 going into the final stages of the second extra-time period, and Ghana were pushing hard for the winner. Dominic Adiyiah headed what would have been a certain winner, had it not been for a blatantly deliberate handball by Suarez.

He was sent off and a penalty awarded, but Asamoah Gyan missed from the spot with the last kick of the game, sending it to a shootout where Uruguay prevailed.

Sid Lowe on the CBC website asks whether Suarez is a ‘sneaky cheat who prospered at the expense of innocent men or brave hero who fell on his sword.’ However, it’s hard to see the bravery in a cynical, calculated breach of the rules where the designated punishment is ridiculously disproportionate to the consequences inflicted.

Perhaps it was smart of Suarez to do whatever it took to get his team to the semi-finals, but the way it was done is the footballing equivalent of winning with a low blow.

And so the African presence ends in the most unjust of circumstances. And the World Cup has its villain.

MUST-SEE: Brazil’s elimination robs us of the chance to see a rematch of the final match of the 1950 World Cup, when Uruguay stunned the host nation at the Maracana. But for a more recent match, here are a couple of Luís Fabiano goals against Uruguay in 2007 – and shouldn’t all goals be followed by a short instrumental and the name of the team that has scored?

EYEBROW-RAISER: The Maracanaza above shows when people didn’t prepare for the prospect of a Brazil loss. But when those preparations go wrong you get a situation like in Brazil this week, when a magazine published an ad lamenting the team’s elimination and looking forward to 2014. The problem was, Brazil had just beaten Chile. Oh well, at least they can use it again now.

REASONS TO CHEER ON GERMANY: Berlin, Einstein, sausages, beer halls, Schiffer.

REASONS TO CHEER AGAINST GERMANY: Nazism, Schumacher, Van Dyk, 4-0.

TONIGHT: An early contender for match of the tournament sees Zee Germans take on the group of players who give Diego Maradona the opportunity to have a press conference. It’s a rematch of the 1986 and 1990 finals, which were split one apiece, and also a bad-tempered quarter-final four years ago which saw handbags fly after Argentina went out on penalties. Hostilities have been renewed as the two teams have engaged in a pre-match war of words which almost requires another link to The Rock. There has been speculation that the Argentines may finally curb their attacking ways in order to counter the German threat but Maradona insists they will attack – after all they have a pretty handy front line themselves. Lionel Messi has been suffering from a cold but if it’s enough to keep him out of tonight’s match I will join Maradona on his nude run of Buenos Aires. Germany also has injury concerns with Cacau out and Lukas Podolski in doubt. Flip a coin: Germany 3-2 Argentina a.e.t. At 4:30 it’s Spain meeting a third opponent in four matches that speaks their language – this time it’s Paraguay. Vicente del Bosque has come out in support of Fernando Torres, although the media has jumped on the Fernando Llorente bandwagon a week after some genius first speculated upon his usefulness. The Paraguayans have generally been the aggressors in their matches but it will be a different story when they have little of the ball. Their lack of scoring – three goals in four matches and none from the front three – hasn’t yet come back to bite them and it probably won’t here either, but only because it wouldn’t have made a difference: Paraguay 0-3 Spain.

Evan Harding is co-producer of The Contenders Daily Bite, a daily World Cup short which can be seen on Tribal Football. A Master of Global Communication student at La Trobe University, he is an upstart editor armed with a month’s supply of coffee and a Spanish chance to still make back the money lost on an ill-conceived bet. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.