Monday, June 24, 2024
HomeSportsOpinion | World Cup villain Luis Suárez won’t get taste of knockout...

Opinion | World Cup villain Luis Suárez won’t get taste of knockout stage after rematch with Ghana goes sour

DOHA, QATAR — Villains are so rarely given what they deserve. Luis Suárez is one of football’s great ones: imperious, unrepentant, vicious, sometimes feral. This was his fourth World Cup, after a stellar, pockmarked career — a man who could wrestle the biggest awards from Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in their primes, and be hated all the way. He is 35 now, and this is his final World Cup. And here, the road led back.

“There’s been a lot of talk over the years in Ghana,” came the question to Suárez the day before, from a Ghanian journalist. “They consider you the devil himself. I spoke to fans yesterday and they are looking forward to maybe retiring you from the World Cup with this game. Have you ever considered apologizing?”

He didn’t, of course: In that infamous 2010 World Cup quarterfinal with Ghana, Suárez was given a red card for thrusting his hand up to stop the ball in the box, and the resulting Ghana penalty was stopped, and Uruguay won. Ghana was denied the best African World Cup finish ever. “I didn’t say sorry because I did the handball, but Ghana’s player missed the penalty, not me,” said Suárez. Cold as ice.

He was called El Diablo in Ghana, and 12 years later on a Friday night Uruguay played Ghana in their final Group H match at El Janoub Stadium, as South Korea played Portugal at Education City. Only Portugal was through to the round of 16. Everyone else needed a result.

And Ghana wanted revenge, too. Ghana winger André Ayew was on that 2010 team, and while he missed the Uruguay match due to yellow cards, the Black Stars captain glared at Suárez in the pre-match handshakes like he was going to burn down his house. The day before Suárez had said, how many of their players were eight years old in 2010, how many had just heard stories and might misunderstand, life goes on. That glare said: history gets dragged right alongside, buddy.

But revenge isn’t easy when the villain is great. Five minutes after Ayew missed a penalty, making Ghana the first country to miss two penalties against the same opponent in the history of the World Cup, Uruguay scored first: Suárez got a shot and was stopped, but it was headed in on a rebound by Giorgian de Arrascaeta. He scored again off a Suárez assist, a clever sand wedgelike flick. At Education City Korea was tied with Portugal, so Uruguay was in position to advance. And Ghana’s long-awaited revenge was vanishing into the sea.

Suárez was subbed off in the 66th minute, and his teammates would have to do it without him. His teams have had to do that before, of course. The third time Suárez bit another player during a match — the previous two were during his time at Ajax and Liverpool, respectively — was during the 2014 World Cup, against Italy, and Suárez was suspended for Uruguay’s round of 16 loss, then another eight international matches, including an entire COPA America. (He scored against Brazil in his first match back.) That was different than the time Suárez was suspended for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra — Suárez and his grandmother tried to claim it was a cultural misunderstanding — and then refused to shake his hand. God, he’s been a piece of work.

But on this night Suárez was done, and Uruguay just needed everything to stay as it was. No problem.

Korea-Portugal, however, was maybe 10 minutes ahead, and in extra time South Korea’s Hwang Hee-chan scored a brilliant goal to make it 2-1. Korea was in position to advance on goal differential, and Korean fans were weeping in the stands. For Uruguay to advance, they needed another goal.

Suárez knew right away, and the match became an opera. He sat on the bench with tears in his eyes, covering his face with his jersey, looking back up. Uruguay pushed, but Ghana decided: if we are going out, we are dragging the devil to hell with us.

Uruguay pushed; Ghana pushed back. Uruguay pushed: Ghanian keeper Lawrence Ati-Zigi kept them out. Suárez looked like a man watching his country die, his heavy eyes pulled down, his jersey in his hands. It was 15 minutes of pure hole-in-the-stomach agony. At Education City Korea was watching the match on the field, on someone’s phone. Ghana would not yield.

One final free kick, the whistle blew, and Suárez covered his head and sobbed. He stayed there as some of the Uruguayans harassed the referee like a villain’s henchmen; he stayed there as the field sorted out, as the broadcasts summed it up, as the crowd started to filter to the exits. This was the end of Luis Suárez and Uruguay at the World Cup. He wept all the way up the tunnel.

It makes sense, that he wept. Think about what drives a man to compete the way Suárez competed: to put a hand on a ball and never apologize, to dive so much you become known as a diver in a sport full of divers, to kick your opponents, to denigrate them, to refuse to shake their hand, to bite a man, and to do it again, and to do it again, in a World Cup, in match you win. What’s it like to have to let go of that? To have it taken away from you, ripped away, when football meant so much every time you stepped on a field that you couldn’t always control yourself? Ghana coach Otto Addo had said of the handball, “If the same incident had happened the other way round … I’d want every player to do all he can, and even to sacrifice himself.” He understood.

So of course Suárez sobbed, and Ghana got to be there, and somewhere Patrice Evra liked an Instagram post of Suárez on that bench. Ghana didn’t quite defeat him, but they got to be there when the beast was slain, and this time they got to watch his heart break. See how he likes it. Maybe that was enough for Ghana, this time. They made the devil cry.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

Source link



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -

Most Popular

Recent Comments