JOHANNESBURG — Uruguay may have paid a high price for their contentious victory over Ghana on penalties to set up a World Cup semi-final with the Netherlands in Cape Town on Tuesday.
The two-time world champions reached the last-four for the first time in 40 years after denying the Ghanaians from becoming the first African team to reach the semi-finals of a World Cup.
Uruguay held their nerve to win the penalty shoot-out 4-2 after it was locked at 1-1 after extra-time at Soccer City on Friday.
Striker Luis Suarez, whose deliberate handball in the final minute of extra-time denied Ghana the winning goal, will miss the Dutch showdown after he was red-carded by Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca.
Asamoah Gyan had the chance to win the match for Ghana, but the Rennes forward crashed his penalty against the crossbar forcing the match into penalties.
Coach Oscar Tabarez may also have to find a new centre-back pairing after Jorge Fucile received his second yellow card of the tournament and skipper Diego Lugano withdrew before halftime with an injured right knee.
"I don't know how far we can go. The Netherlands have great players but we cannot betray this group of players," Tabarez said.
"We have a little time to prepare for the match but we are going there to win.
"We didn't play good football against Ghana but we fought very hard.
"We are amongst the four best teams at this World Cup. This is something we would never have imagined before coming to South Africa."
Debate raged on Saturday over Suarez's deliberate handball, which ultimately proved decisive for the Uruguayans, who lost 3-1 to Brazil the last time they reached the World Cup semi-finals in Mexico in 1970.
The Ajax striker was hailed as a hero in Uruguay for what he has called his 'Hand of God.'
Diego Maradona famously credited a goal against England at the 1986 World Cup to the "Hand of God" after he scored with his hand.
"I did it so that my teammates could win the penalty shoot-out. When I saw Gyan miss the penalty it was a great joy," Suarez said.
Man-of-the-match Diego Forlan spoke for his teammates when he said of Suarez's actions:" "It's a pity (he will miss the semi), he made a good save today, we'll try to do our best.
"He played his part. He didn't score a goal but he saved one and now we go to the semi-final."
Tabarez supported Suarez amid cheating accusations, by saying:"It was instinctive, he instinctively put his hand out to the ball and was red-carded and will miss the next game.
"He has paid for the consequences of his actions. He wasn't to know that Ghana would miss the resulting penalty. It is not fair to say that we cheated our way to victory."
But Ghana's Serbian coach Milovan Rajevac was sanguine about the manner in which his team was dumped from the World Cup and thereby snuffing out the remaining African hope at the tournament.
"All I can say is this is football. That's football," Rajevac said.
"I do not know what I would tell him (Suarez) if I saw him. We had a penalty in the last minute, but it was bad luck, that's all I can say. We weren't lucky today.
"This is sport and justice. Today Uruguay were the lucky ones."