Feature Writer

World Cup Moments – 2010: The Suarez Handball

Luis Suarez‘s handball in the dying seconds of Uruguay’s World Cup quarter-final against Ghana made him an instant villain around the world, but we would have all done the same thing, writes Henry Jackson

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - Friday, June 11, 2010: A Mexico supporter with a copy of the World Cup trophy during the opening Group A match between South Africa and Mexico during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa at the Soccer City Stadium. (Pic by Hoch Zwei/Propaganda)

The first in a series of articles looking at each World Cup and a moment involving Liverpool players. Suarez hadn’t signed for Liverpool at the time of this incident but it brought him to the attention of the world.

The Tournament

The 2010 World Cup saw Spain beat Holland in the final, with Liverpool players Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres becoming world champions.

England, meanwhile, had a poor tournament, eventually being humiliated by Germany in the second round after Frank Lampard’s infamous goal that wasn’t.

Despite some memorable moments in the showcase event in South Africa, arguably the biggest talking point was Luis Suarez’s last-gasp handball on the line in Uruguay’s quarter-final clash with Ghana.

Suarez Incident

With the score at 1-1, and the game in the final minute of extra-time, Dominic Adiyiah’s header was sailing into the net, only for Suarez to palm the ball away in dramatic style.

El Pistolero was immediately sent-off and Ghana were awarded a penalty. All Asamoah Gyan had to do was convert the spot-kick and the whole of Africa would be celebrating having a team in the last-four of a World Cup for the first time ever. What followed was pure drama.

Gyan’s effort hit the crossbar, and Suarez could be seen celebrating like a maniac in the tunnel, having saved his country. The game went to penalties, and Uruguay progressed 4-2 in shootout in front of a stunned crowd at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

The whole world fumed at the then 23-year-old for his antics, with many labelling him a disgrace and a cheat. In the eyes of many, he had robbed an entire continent of one of their greatest moments in football history. The key question is: was that Suarez’s problem?

He was still six months away from becoming a Liverpool player at this point so it’s nothing to do with club bias, but there simply wasn’t an issue with his behaviour whatsoever.

Suarez is, and was even back then, an easy target. We all know he’s far from an angel, but the bottom line is that, in the heat of the moment, any competitive person would have done what he did.

Anybody claiming that they would have allowed to let the ball sail into the back of the net, sending their country out of football’s greatest tournament in the process, is not telling the truth quite frankly.

At this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, imagine if Gerrard is dismissed for deliberate handball on the line against Germany in the quarter-finals, helping the Three Lions progress to the semis.

He would be lauded for his bravery and the fact he sacrificed his place in what would have been one of the biggest games of his career. There is no way the nation would be disgusted with his behaviour. It’s all very hypocritical.

Of course it’s completely understandable to have felt aggrieved at the time – Uruguay are far from the most popular national team around – especially considering what a win for Ghana would have meant to millions, but it’s not like they weren’t given a golden opportunity to win the game.

Equally, I’m sure Suarez celebrating would have rubbed some people up the wrong way, but to me it showed the incredible team player that he is. While some would have walked back to the dressing thinking solely about their own issues, he was stood willing his team on.

The Suarez handball will be remembered by many Africans in a similar way to how the English think of Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’ moment in 1986, but there’s a big difference.

Maradona’s was a premeditated piece of cheating, and one that England didn’t benefit from whatsoever – Ghana were still given a penalty at the end of the day – whereas Suarez’s was an instinctive reaction. It it were almost any other player, it would no longer be talked about.

Do you think Suarez’s handball was out of order? What would you have done in that situation? Let us know in the comments section.

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Freelance football writer with an enormous passion and knowledge for the game. More importantly, LFC fanatic.
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  • gwhizz

    …so why you talking about it then?

  • Mart

    Gus Poyet put it well – “We don’t know what all the fuss was about. He saved it, he was sent off, it was a penalty. For us, it’s worse when you get away with something that nobody sees, like punching someone off the ball. Should Suarez say, ‘It was handball, send me off’? No, we don’t do that. Everyone saw it.”

    The rule is – deliberate handball in the box, red card and a pen. If that rule isn’t fair – change it.

    • Lamont Cranston

      This is what I tell every scumbag Manc who I out-argue but you can’t reason with haters.


    Suarez’s handball wasn’t out of order.If a similar thing happens in the CL next season and a Liverpool player could but doesn’t stop the ball, i’ll be on here giving him abuse.
    The way he celebrated was typically South American.Suarez is one of the most emotionally charged players on the planet.Everything he feels on the pitch you can see in his actions.
    When we drew at Crystal Palace which realistically ended our title challenge.He was crying like a baby under his shirt.That kind of emotion coming from a Liverpool player was good to see because it showed how much he cares and wants to win.

    • Nelly79

      If they want to blame anyone, then blame Gyan, after all he missed the pen.

      Today the club have submitted it’s planning application for the redevelopment of anfield.

      • BEAST

        Spot on Nelly.Gyan got away with a poor penalty because everyone put their energy in the Suarez hate campaign.
        Fantastic news about the redevelopment.I want to see builders do some work though.We’ve been talking about a new stadium or redevelopment for the last 15 years.
        Everything seems to be going well for Liverpool on the pitch with CL qualification.And behind the scenes with sponsorship deals and movement on stadium expansion.FSG are proving to be very good owners!

  • DRaco

    I don’t remember anyone calling Phil Neville a disgrace, when he robbed Lucas of a debut goal in the Merseyside derby few years ago. I’m sure Suarez prefers to win it by scoring goals, but if you need to take one for the team you do it. Ghana had a penalty and they could win it, Suarez was not taking part in penalty shootout and still Urugway has won. On the other hand if someone does that to LFC in CL someday, we will be furious ;)

  • El_Uruguayo

    I have a picture of that handball framed! All black and white, and Suarez in Colour – a gift from a fellow Uruguayan. Suarez became an instant hero with that (though is 3 goals in the earlier matches were giving him some clout). There’s nothing to complain about, and if I were to cheer for any other team, I would hope my players have the sense to do the same. The real disgrace that day was the reffing – there never should have been a free kick that allowed that almost goal to happen – Suarez could have and should have played against the Dutch – who must have been relieved that they did not have to face the previous season’s top scorer from the Dutch League. Definitely the stand-out moment from that World Cup.

  • Keith

    I’m curious to kno how Ghanian fans of Liverpool feel about this..

  • Tony Aldridge

    If Ghana had scored on the penalty kick we wouldn’t be even talking about it now.