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Ghana, Uruguay set up quarter-final showdown

Sports Desk |
Update: 2010-06-26 15:40:45

JOHANNESBURG: Surprise contenders Ghana and Uruguay will compete for a place in the World Cup semi-finals at Soccer City here on July 2 after both sides came through tight last-16 matches on Saturday.

Ghana reached the last eight for the first time by beating the United States 2-1 after extra time in Rustenburg, while Uruguay overcame South Korea by the same scoreline at Port Elizabeth Stadium in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The Black Stars are bidding to become the first African side to reach the semi-finals of the tournament, while former champions Uruguay are hoping to make it to the last four for the first time since 1970.

"It`s incredible, we`ve created history, it`s the first time that Ghana have reached the quarter-finals," said Ghana right-back John Pantsil.

"We played for 120 minutes and everyone gave his best."

Asamoah Gyan was Ghana`s match-winner, smashing home the winning goal in the third minute of extra time after shrugging off a challenge from Rennes club-mate Carlos Bocanegra on the edge of the American penalty area.

"I am the happiest man in the world," said Gyan. "In 2006 we made the second round, now we have gone a step further. We have made Ghana proud and the whole of Africa proud."

Kevin-Prince Boateng had given Ghana a fifth-minute lead after breaking clear of the US defence, but Landon Donovan drew Bob Bradley`s side level from the penalty spot in the 62nd minute.

"I thought at 1-1 we had a chance but we didn`t have enough freshness against all of Ghana`s power," said Bradley.

"We have a great squad. We`re proud but also disappointed not to have gone further."

Earlier, Luis Suarez struck twice to end Uruguay`s 40-year wait for a World Cup quarter-final appearance.

The 23-year-old striker and captain of Dutch club Ajax opened the scoring after eight minutes and secured victory with a sumptuous curling shot 10 minutes from time.

"The truth is I didn`t realise the ball was going to go in. In these moments the only thing I want to do is enjoy myself," said Suarez, who is level with Gyan and four other players at the top of the goalscoring charts with three goals.

Victory for Uruguay continued the impressive form of South American teams at the first World Cup staged by Africa, with all five reaching the second round and Brazil and Argentina among the title favourites.

But as Asia saw its challenge cut in half -- Japan face Paraguay in Pretoria on Tuesday -- South Korea coach Huh Jung-moo only had praise for his gallant Taeguk Warriors.

"They never gave up, they were tenacious and rose to the challenge, they showed they were true Koreans. We lost because we were not able to match Uruguay when it came to finishing," he admitted.

Suarez put Uruguay ahead by tapping home at the back post after South Korean goalkeeper Jung Sung-Ryong failed to cut out a low Diego Forlan cross, with Lee Chung-Yong rising to head home the equaliser in the 68th minute.

Talismanic England striker Wayne Rooney was given the all-clear to face Germany in the third quarter-final in Rustenburg on Sunday.

England coach Fabio Capello can pick from a fully fit squad, but Germany revealed that they will leave it to the last minute before deciding whether central midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger (hamstring) and defender Jerome Boateng (calf) are fit to play as one of the World Cup`s great rivalries resumes.

Two-time champions Argentina face Mexico later on Sunday.

BDST: 1147hrs, June 27, 2010

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