World Cup: ‘El Diablo’? Luis Suarez returns fire
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez refused to apologise to Ghanaians on Thursday for his role 12 years ago in their biggest World Cup setback, arguing it wasn’t his handball that denied Ghana a quarter-final winner but their missed penalty that followed.
A win for Ghana against Uruguay in Friday’s final Group H match could avenge their acrimonious defeat by the South Americans in 2010, when Suarez used his hand to block an extra-time winner for Ghana, who missed the resulting spot-kick and lost the penalty shootout that followed.
A reporter asked Suarez if he would say sorry to a nation that considered him “El Diablo”, or “the devil himself”.
“I don’t apologise about that ... but the player is gonna miss a penalty,” he said, responding in English.
“Maybe I can say (I) apologise if I injure the player and take a red card.
“But in this situation I take a red card and the ref said penalty. This is not my fault because I didn’t miss.”
“It’s not my responsibility to shoot the penalty,” he added.
Bitterness remains entrenched among fans in Ghana over the incident in Johannesburg, which denied Ghana the accolade of becoming the first African country to reach the World Cup semi-finals.
A win in Al Wakrah will see Ghana advance to the last 16, but they could still go through with a draw if Portugal, who have already qualified, beat South Korea.
The Ghana team seemed less interested in casting Suarez as a villain.
“What happened some years ago will be always history that is in our mind. But this is a totally different game,” said Thomas Partey, a midfielder with English club Arsenal.
Coach Otto Addo said the public saw the game as a chance to settle scores, but for his side it was only about qualification.
Referring to the Suarez handball, he said the 2010 defeat was a very sad day for Ghana but teams needed players who can make sacrifices.
“It’s all about perspective. If the same incident would have happened the other way around and Ghana would proceed to the semi-finals, everybody would say OK, it’s normal that a player will do anything he can,” he said.
“This is what I wish from every player, to do all he can to help his team qualify to serve and sometimes sacrificing himself with a red card.”
Uruguay, the perennial wild cards, also must win to progress. Suarez and Edinson Cavani and talented newcomer Darwin Nunez all struggled in their opening matches, and coach Diego Alonso must choose whether to keep faith with them or opt for starts for Facundo Pellistri and Maxi Gomez, who have provided Uruguay’s few moments of excitement.