Ghana bid to avenge an infamous loss by eliminating Uruguay from the World Cup on Friday as shellshocked Germany launched an inquest into the team’s stunning early exit.
After a pulsating fortnight of first round action, the World Cup’s group stage draws to a close with the final games in Groups G and H.
Brazil have already locked up qualification from Group G while Portugal have assured themselves of a place in the last 16 in Group H.
That leaves all eyes on Ghana’s clash with Uruguay on Friday where a win for the Africans would see them into the knockout rounds.
The game is a rematch of the two sides epic 2010 World Cup quarter-final, where a deliberate handball on the goalline by Uruguay’s Luis Suarez denied Ghana an extra-time winner.
Asamoah Gyan missed the ensuing spot-kick before Uruguay went on to win the game on penalties to deny Ghana a semi-final berth.
The villain of the 2010 game, Suarez, on Thursday brushed off an invitation to apologise for his misdeeds ahead of Friday’s game.
“I don’t say I apologise about that because I take the handball but the Ghana player missed the penalty, not me. It’s not my fault because I did not miss the penalty,” he said.
The permutations are simple for Uruguay — they must win to have any chance of progressing, while Ghana know a draw could be enough, depending on the result between Portugal and South Korea.
Like Uruguay, the Koreans must win and then hope for a favour in the other match.
They will be without Portuguese coach Paulo Bento after his red card in the 3-2 defeat to Ghana when he raged at the referee.
In Group G, already-qualified Brazil play Cameroon, who must win to stand a chance of progressing.
Brazil coach Tite is set to make a raft of changes to rest his first-choice players as he eyes the next round.
“It is a risk, yes, but it is an opportunity for (other players) to show their quality,” he said.
Serbia must also beat Switzerland — who could qualify with a draw — to reach the last 16.
– German inquest –
Friday’s group games follow an epic round of fixtures on Thursday which saw Japan stun 2010 world champions Spain to seal their place in the knockout rounds at the expense of mighty Germany.
Germany, who suffered a stunning 2-1 defeat to the Japanese earlier in the tournament, were eliminated on goal difference.
It is the second straight World Cup that Germany have failed to go beyond the group stage, a startling fall from grace for the four-time champions who last won the title in 2014.
German veteran Thomas Muller described the loss on Thursday as an “absolute catastrophe” while striker Kai Havertz said simply: “I don’t think we’re a tournament team anymore.”
The German exit has understandably put the future of coach Hansi Flick under scrutiny.
Flick’s contract runs until 2024, when Germany will host the European Championship on home soil.
Flick said late Thursday there was “no reason not to continue” after being quizzed about his future.
German Football Federation (DFB) president Bernd Neuendorf said Friday there was no question of Flick being granted a “blank cheque” to continue as he announced a review of the debacle.
“As soon as the analysis is completed, we will present the conclusions to you,” Neuendorf told reporters in Qatar.
But former Germany international Dietmar Hamann said Flick should be hustled out of the door, pointing the finger of blame at the coach.
“Everyone does what they want in the team. I see no reason why Flick should remain coach,” Hamann told Sky Germany. “He has not managed to form a team, a squad that is competitive.
“In terms of players, we are better than at least two teams in our group. He didn’t get the cohesion right.”