Stubborn Spain to face Germany in two-continent semis
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Only three European sides and one from Latin America remain in the World Cup semi-finals, with Ghana's absence meaning the host continent has been forced out. Germany managed to beat Brazil, so watch out for some Spanish practices from the hombrés who conquered Paraguay Saturday.
It was wall-to-wall hombrés in the press centre at Ellis Park on Saturday night, as Paraguay played Spain in the quarter final.
And there were Spanish practices aplenty afoot. One journalist approached me and asked me to keep an eye on his computer while he stepped out for a few minutes.
‘‘How many minutes?’’ I enquired. ‘‘Oh, about 35….’’ I declined to be committed to someone else’s property for more than half an hour.
What if I’d wanted to go for a cup of tea? What if he were away longer than that?
And besides I have enough trouble keeping abreast of my own belongings. I’ve lost the mobile phone I bought on my arrival last month. I was rather attached to it. It had a really annoying ring tone. But I used it as an alarm and ersatz watch. Good thing I don’t have any early morning flights. I’ve either left it somewhere or it has been stolen.
I have to go and buy a new one for the last week of my stay here. Ho-hum. But how else to keep in touch with the newsroom back in Paris?
How to tell them about the ins and outs of the games? Email? A fixed line telephone ? Letters? Carrier pigeon?
No it has to be a mobile phone.
But that was the sub-plot to the main event on the field where Paraguay were the rank outsiders against Spain. Essentially I was keen to see how they’d keep the score down.
Would it be by kicking lumps out of Spain’s talented bunch or by gritty defence and hoping to catch the Spaniards on the break?
They opted for stubborness. And the game looked to be heading for extra time but Paraguay were finally carved open and Spain got the goal their pressure and initiative deserved.
In the semis it will be Männer v hombrés as the Germans take on the Spaniards.
After all the talk of the first World Cup in Africa etc etc, it will be the usual continental powers in the final four.
One from South America and three from Europe.
Ghana had the chance to break up the duopoly but were horribly undone. First of all by some good old-fashioned old order cynicism - Luis Suarez’s self-sacrificial handball on the line - and then some poor penalty kicks.
Asamoah Gyan could have won the game in the dying seconds of extra time. His penalty kick hit the bar and went out.
The 24-year-old deserves considerable respect because a few minutes after that blunder he had to take Ghana’s first kick in the shootout.
There he did not waver. A lesser man would have passed up the opportunity.
The Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson said Gyan would get the support of the dressing room.
Defender John Paintsil echoed the sentiment saying there was no point in making Gyan feel worse.
The end of the match was by far the most enthralling period of football I’d seen since Manchester United beat Bayern Munich in the Uefa Champions League final in 1999.
Ghana pressed for the winning strike and in a goalmouth scramble the ball was twice repelled from the line, it went towards the net a third time and Suarez threw up his hands to block Dominic Adiyiah’s header.
Shame that as the substitute Adiyiah would today be basking in glory.
But the penalty befell Gyan as did the heartache.
Kwesi Nyantakyi, the president of the Ghana Football Association, was a cheery soul in the aftermath of defeat. He exuded pride in the achievement of the players.
He said the team had done better than their first appearance at the world cup four years ago.
They could either throw their hands up in despair or look forward to the future. He said they’d go for the latter and return to Ghana gracefully.
‘‘Even Brazil are going home today,’’ he chuckled.
Their departure courtesy of the Netherlands was far from joyous: a man dismissed for stamping his studs on an opponent’s thigh. No élan there.
And, if you’re going to go home beaten, then at least go home in style, Africa's last representatives at the first etc etc may be out but they leave a lot of friends behind.
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