It is a feature of the FIFA World Cup™ that the further a team progresses, the smaller their margin of error becomes, with every slip or stumble potentially leading to elimination. Equally, one stroke of genius can change the course of destiny, and so it turned out today.
Luis Suarez was the hero for Uruguay, and there could well be calls to erect a statue in his honour there this evening after his two goals edged La Celeste past Korea Republic and into the quarter-finals. Having plundered 35 league goals with Ajax last season, the striker moved himself level with Gonzalo Higuain, Robert Vittek and David Villa atop the South Africa 2010 scoring charts on three strikes. Suarez's second pinged in off the far post with goalkeeper Sung Ryong-Jung well beaten, leaving the distinct impression that the South Americans had luck on their side. Indeed, in the opening minutes Korea Republic's Park Chu-Young had also connected with an upright via a superb free-kick, but instead of nestling in the net his effort bounced away to safety.
Later in the day, the focus switched to the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, where who better than a Prince to land the first telling blow? Kevin-Prince Boateng it was who put Ghana ahead early in the game, before USA turned to their own footballing aristocrat to pull them level, the Stars and Stripes' all-time leading scorer Landon Donovan scoring with a penalty to claim his 45th international goal. Like Suarez, Donovan's spot-kick clipped the post on its way in to take him level with the tournament's leading marksmen on three goals – but that was where the comparisons ended. It was time for an African king to emerge, and it was Asamoah Gyan who gladly stepped into the role in extra time. His strike clinched Ghana's first ever last-eight berth and only the third for an African team after Cameroon in 1990 and Senegal in 2002. The match-winner likewise became the sixth player with a trio of goals to his name.
Uruguay 2-1 Korea Republic
United States 1-2 Ghana aet
Goal of the day
Luis Suarez, Uruguay 2-1 Korea Republic, 80 mins: With so little to choose between two worthy opponents, it required something special to decide the outcome, and a player capable of a moment of magic. Having opened the scoring in the first half, Suarez took it upon himself to finish the job, and with ten minutes remaining he picked up a half-cleared corner on the left edge of the area, cut inside a defender and arced a delicious curling shot beyond South Korean goalkeeper Sung. It was a bolt of genius during the storm that raged over Port Elizabeth.
One to remember
We will never know if more clement conditions would have helped the Taeguk Warriors earn extra time. Lee Dong-Gook unleashed a low goalbound effort after 87 minutes, but the combination of Fernando Muslera's save and a water-soaked pitch slowed the ball down, allowing Diego Lugano to clear before the ball reached the goalline.
Quote of the day
"The South Koreans caused us problems, but we were able to fight back and call on our fighting spirit and heart to win. If we're able to get through a match like this, we can beat anybody," Jorge Fucile, Uruguay defender.
The stat3 – Boateng's sixth-minute effort for Ghana was the third-quickest goal scored by an African team at a FIFA World Cup. The fastest was notched by Boateng's fellow scorer this evening, Gyan, who registered after two minutes against Czech Republic in 2006. South Africa's Siyabonga Nomvethe took just four minutes to find a way past Slovenia in 2002.
Voice of the fans
"Nobody should dispute the fact that USA played an excellent game. I like their fair tackles and open approach unlike other countries. Though my country is Ghana I will say WELL DONE USA. Better luck next time," FIFA.com user crackman4u.
Have your say
Uruguay and Ghana will now cross paths in the quarter-finals, with one assured a spot in the last four. Can either team go all the way and give the 2010 FIFA World Cup a surprise winner?