|ESPN.com: World Cup 2010||[Print without images]|
A spot in the semifinals, which would be enough to sate even the most expectant Ghana or Uruguay fan's expectations. Uruguay, though once considered a World Cup heavyweight, hadn't even reached the quarterfinals since 1970, so a semifinal run would put the cherry on top of an already hugely successful campaign. Ghana, meanwhile, has the hopes of an entire nation behind it as it attempts to become the first African team to reach the semifinals in the competition's history.
It's likely neither of these teams really counted on reaching the quarterfinals, so both could approach the possibility of a semifinal finish with nothing to lose. But much is on the line for two very proud nations -- Uruguay with its long and storied football history and Ghana with the chance to make history for the sport in Africa.
Ghana's main concern going into the knockout rounds had to have been the squad's distinct lack of offensive output -- through three games in the group stage, Ghana scored only two goals, and both came off penalty kicks. The squad looked much more open against the United States, when Asamoah Gyan scored one of the tournament's most impressive goals and star striker Kevin-Prince Boateng also scored. But Gyan and Boateng have been struggling with injuries in the week since the round of 16 matchup -- whether those two strikers are fully fit will have a huge impact on how Ghana plays the match against Uruguay.
Diego Forlan was very much the favorite to light up the stage for Uruguay this World Cup, and no doubt he has impressed, with two goals in South Africa. But the man who got Uruguay through the round of 16 last week was Luis Suarez, Forlan's striker partner and a 23-year-old Cup newcomer. Together, they form one of the most potent attacking threats left in the tournament, and they will no doubt be looking to do some serious damage versus Ghana's defense.
Richard Kingson, Ghana. The Ghanaian goalkeeper was extremely impressive against the United States, where he seemed to hustle into position for every ball that came toward his goal. He will need to be similarly strong against Uruguay, which has an attacking third much stronger than the Americans'. If he can put in another impressive performance, he could keep Ghana in the match long enough to score some goals.
Asamoah Gyan, Ghana. Gyan's goal against the United States was one of the best of this year's tournament -- an off-balance, left-footed strike that was placed perfectly in the lower corner of the goal. The Black Stars will need more of that magic against Uruguay and, if Gyan is not fully recovered from his injury by Friday, could struggle for offense.
Diego Lugano, Uruguay. The Uruguayan captain has looked strong in the squad's matches in South Africa, but he was beaten handily on South Korea's goal in the round of 16 -- the only score Uruguay has given up in this World Cup. His lack of pace showed more against the South Koreans than it had in the group stages, and the outstanding quickness of the Ghanaian midfield and attack will be a huge test for Lugano.
Luis Suarez, Uruguay. In his first World Cup, Suarez has excelled, and his second goal against South Korea was another in the running for goal of the tournament. When partnered with Forlan up top, he is deadly -- and opponents will man-mark him at their own peril, with Forlan ready and waiting to grab a lucky rebound or cross pass.
We should be in for an entertaining, open match. Uruguay loves to play attacking football, and Ghana showed the U.S. just how well its players can score on the counter twice in that round of 16 matchup. Both teams will try to maintain possession in the attacking half, and that should make for plenty of chances on goal and some impressive teamwork near the box.
That being said, neither team will want to lose. It wouldn't be surprising to see the game start out cautiously, as Ghana and Uruguay each try to feel the other out. The players of both teams will have placed their hearts and souls into this match, and there are bound to be some nerves that come out.
Both teams desperately want to win this game. Uruguay still holds on to a proud World Cup history but hasn't reached a semifinal since 1970, so the 2010 campaign offers a chance at redemption after it failed to qualify for three of the past four World Cups.
But an African nation has never qualified for the World Cup semifinals, and for Ghana to be the first -- in Africa's first World Cup and having been without its injured captain Michael Essien throughout the entire campaign -- would be the stuff of legends. Ghana gets the edge and likely will have a huge crowd following in Johannesburg for this match.
Uruguay 2, Ghana 1. This one could take extra time, or even penalties, to decide. The teams are evenly matched, and both have a huge amount of passion behind them, but Uruguay's striking duo takes the edge over Ghana's -- especially if the Black Stars' attackmen are not fully fit.
Rachel Ullrich is an editor for ESPN.com.