On This Day: Luis Suarez’s ‘Hand Of God’ Put Uruguay Into A World Cup Semi-Final
"The Hand of God now belongs to me," said Luis Suarez after his goalline handball stopped Ghana's late winner and led to Uruguay qualifying for the 2010 World Cup semi-final.
"I made the best save of the tournament," he added. "Sometimes in training I play as a goalkeeper, so it was worth it."
I mean, you weren't expecting Suarez to apologise, right? The striker's win-at-all-costs mentality is hardwired into him, so diving to get two hands to Dominic Adiyah's goal-bound header was a no-brainer.
A red card and a penalty followed but when Asamoah Gyan smacked the pen against the crossbar, Suarez went wild on the touchline. Uruguay duly won the deciding shootout and Ghana, the last African team in the South Africa-hosted World Cup, were out.
It's one of the most incredible endings to a World Cup match. The drama was only heightened by Sebastian Abreu's cheeky panenka penalty sealing Uruguay's shootout triumph.
As usual, Suarez was somehow hero and villain at the same time. The game was 1-1 at the end of extra time, Diego Forlan's free-kick cancelling out Sulley Muntari's strike, with the crazy Jabulani ball swerving all over the place for both goals.
There was a goalmouth scramble as Ghana searched for a late winner and Suarez actually made a brilliant clearance with his knee, before Adiyah returned the ball and Suarez made a save any top keeper would have been proud of.
"It was just instinct. Any player would have done the same - not just me," he said bullishly afterwards.
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The football world was divided afterwards. Some felt heartbroken on behalf of Ghana and disgust at how unrepentant Suarez was, with his touchline celebration after the missed penalty the icing on a rancid cake.
Others pointed out that this is exactly what you would want from a player in your own team: sacrificing himself, accepting a red card and a ban just to try to get his team into the next round.
"Some people have accused me of a lack of sportsmanship," Suarez acknowledged later. "But I think it's worse if a player suffers an injury when he's stopped by a back tackle because he's about to score."
The 23-year-old was an Ajax player at the time, six months away from the £22.8 million move to Liverpool that would make him a global star. Yet controversy has dogged his goal- and trophy-laden career with the now Barcelona forward banned for biting on three separate occasions and - more seriously - being found guilty by the FA of racially abusing Patrice Evra.
Teammates often claim he is a quite different person when there isn't a battle to be won on the pitch, and certainly Uruguay's players expressed their gratitude for his selfless act.
"It is a pity we won't have Luis for the semi-final, but he made a good save," said Forlan, who would eventually win the Golden Ball for player of the tournament. "He didn't score a goal, but he saved one. He was sent off, but he saved the game for us."
A Suarez-less Uruguay couldn't overcome Holland in the semi-finals, however, losing 3-2 to the side who would finish runners-up to Spain.
We doubt Ghana fans were too disappointed that Suarez missed that chance to play the returning hero/villain in a World Cup final, a week after he'd handed them a memorable exit.
All imagery: PA Images
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