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July 2, 2010

Extra thrills, extra painful

Schaerlaeckens By Leander Schaerlaeckens
ESPN.com
(Archive)

Ghana had a chance to win on a last-second penalty kick Friday but lost to Uruguay in a penalty shootout 4-2, ending Africa's hopes for a semifinalist. It was a cruel way for Ghana to exit the tournament. Here's how the players did:

Diego Forlan, Uruguay: A-

Uruguay's talismanic field marshal had a busy game, taking all manner of free kicks and corners as the referee fell in love with the sound of his own whistle. While many of those shots came to nothing, Forlan did notch the equalizer with a splendid free kick that swerved and dipped into the far right top corner.

Richard Kingson, Ghana: B+

Except for a bizarrely shaky moment or two, the Ghanaian keeper, who spends his club-level time as the fourth man on Wigan Athletic's depth chart, had a very solid game. He made several difficult parries against a team that is strong in the air. He did get burned, though, on Sebastian Abreu's chip shot taken in the shootout that ended the game.

Luis Suarez, Uruguay: B

The hyper, mobile striker never quite found that one typical Suarez moment in which he alters the course of the game. He came close at one point, volleying a ball just wide with the outside of his foot, but his influence was minimal. Then came the final minute of extra time, when a ball he had no chance to head away looked destined for the back of his own net. Suarez threw his hands at it, took the straight red and left the pitch. A stroke of genius, as it turns out, because the ensuing penalty was missed and Uruguay won in the shootout. Not very sportsmanlike, but his handball won Uruguay the game.

Kevin-Prince Boateng, Ghana: B-

Compared to the havoc he wreaked on the American defense, Boateng had a quiet game. He did put in a few dangerous headers and a good shot from distance, but his team's transition game really missed his finishing touch.

Fernando Muslera, Uruguay: A-

Uruguay's goalkeeper had to take some of the blame for Sulley Muntari's goal for Ghana, moving in the wrong direction on a 40-yard banana shot. He more than redeemed himself in the rest of the game, though, coming up with two saves in the penalty series.

Asamoah Gyan, Ghana: B+

Gyan was dangerous throughout the game, almost single-handedly holding down the front line for Ghana. As the 120-minute game progressed, he got more dangerous, culminating with his handful of chances in extra time. In the end, he got to shoot a penalty for the win in the last minute of extra time and hit the crossbar. He bravely stepped up to take Ghana's first penalty in the shootout, though, which he slotted away, but he had the game on his foot.

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at leander.espn@gmail.com.