Posted by Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information
Uruguay and Ghana face off for the first time in international competition when they meet for their quarterfinal match in Johannesburg on Friday. Ghana is looking to become the first African semifinalist after becoming just the third African side to reach the quarterfinals. Uruguay joins three other South American sides in the quarters but is making its first appearance this deep in the tournament in 40 years.
Ghana survived Group D while scoring just two goals, both of which came from the penalty spot. The Black Stars were much improved against the U.S., scoring two excellent goals from open play. However, scoring against the United States is one thing; Uruguay will prove a much more difficult task.
Uruguay has conceded just one goal in four matches, tied for the lowest in the tournament. La Celeste was one of just two sides that held its opponents scoreless through the group stage before conceding to South Korea in the round of 16. A big part of the Uruguayans' success has been their ability to steal possession away from their opponents; their 103 interceptions are 20 more than any other side has accumulated.
While Uruguay has had success stealing passes from others, the team has struggled completing its own. Uruguay's 73.3 percent passing accuracy is the worst among the final eight teams, and fourth-worst overall. This is especially true in the opposing half, where Uruguay has completed just 65.1 percent of its passes. The Ghanaians are not dominating the tournament in these fields but are putting up considerably better numbers, as their 80.1 percent and 74.5 percent marks, respectively, both exceed the tournament average.
Partially a result of their passing accuracy, but also due to their style of play, neither team has possessed the ball more than 50 percent of the time in any of their matches. Uruguay's average possession of 45.8 percent is the second-lowest of any team to advance from the group stage, and its 41 percent possession in the win over Mexico was the second-lowest this tournament for a victorious side. Ghana has hovered right under the 50 percent mark at 48.3 percent and will likely be the ones to finally break that 50 percent barrier.
One final factor that could come into play is accuracy and finishing. While Uruguay has been out-possessed, it has put as many or more shots on target than its opponents in all four games. Uruguay has put 22 shots on target out of 55, scoring six times, while Ghana has put just 20 of its 71 on target, scoring only the two goals against the U.S. from open play.