Panic has ensued in Brazil after the favorites gave up a first half lead and lost to a spunky Dutch side, while Ghana mourns one of the cruelest exits in World Cup history.
Robinho put Brazil ahead early in the game on a one-touch finish after a Kaka through ball sprung him through the center of the Dutch defense. Robinho ran onto the pass and calmly slotted it past the keeper. Throughout the first half Brazil looked very formidable, and Netherlands rarely threatened. Arjen Robben was swarmed every time he touched the ball, and the Dutch looked disjointed while the Brazilians looked composed.
The second half was a completely different story, though. Netherlands showed more energy going forward right from the opening whistle and, though they had still failed to put together a quality chance prior, were rewarded with a goal in the 10th minute. The goal was officially credited as an own goal to Felipe Melo after Wesley Sneijder’s probing cross rolled off Melo’s back and into the net. Melo appeared to be trying to get out of goalkeeper Julio Cesar’s path as Cesar looked to punch the ball away. It was a bit unfortunate for Brazil but also a sign of things to come. The Brazilians showed their defensive vulnerability in the air again when Wesley Sneijder headed home a 68th minute corner kick. Dirk Kuyt beat his mark to a near post run before flicking the ball into the six yard box. Sneijder reacted quickly while the Brazilian defense was left flat-footed and staring disbelievingly into their own goal.
Brazil was still left with plenty of time, but their task got much harder a few minutes later when Felipe Melos completed his disastrous day by being sent off for stomping on a fallen Robben. Brazil only threatened one more time, when Kaka made a long run down the left side. His shot was blocked by the defender, though, and Brazil was soon headed home.
Ghana took the lead in first half stoppage time on a long-range effort from Sulley Muntari. The keeper appeared to lose sight of the ball, and was late making his dive. Uruguay struck back ten minutes into the second half with a free kick goal from Diego Forlan. Like with Ghana’s goal, the keeper appeared to lose sight of the ball.
All of the drama in this game was left for overtime, though, particularly the final minute. In the dying seconds of overtime, Ghana sent the ball into the box where Uruguay failed to fully clear it. Ghana had a couple of chances, which were cleared off the line, before a header from Dominic Adiyiah appeared destined for the back of the net. However, Luis Suarez again cleared it off the line. Unfortunately for Uruguay, he used his hand to do it. Suarez was sent off, and Asamoah Gyan, the man who sent Ghana into the quaterfinals with his extra time goal against the U.S., stepped up to take the penalty…and promptly banged it off the crossbar. Gyan stared in disbelief as the ball bounced high into the air and landed behind the net. Gyan had missed a golden opportunity to win the game, and both teams were now headed for the tournament’s second PK shootout.
Ghana and Gyan certainly feared the worse, and those fears were confirmed when first Adiyiah and then the captain Mensah saw their efforts stopped by the Uruguayan keeper. Uruguay, meanwhile, missed only one of the spot kicks, when Maximiliano Pereira sent his sailing over the goal. Asamoah Gyan, for his part, nailed his penalty kick in the shootout but still appeared inconsolable after the match. No doubt the second penalty will feel a bit empty when he knows he could’ve won the match for Ghana if he had just made the first.