Ghana have launched a blistering attack on their South African counterparts, describing their penalty as “ghastly” and promising to be back for Saturday’s Confederations Cup semi-final.
There was little love lost between the countries during the previous round, with the Ghanaian coach, Avram Grant, accusing the South African players of running “offside” and diving.
The referee, Viktor Kassai, sent off Piotr Zielinski of Poland in the 95th minute of the quarter-final at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. But he failed to stop Mamelodi Sundowns’ Kwadwo Asamoah from converting the penalty, which led to Ghana winning 3-2 on penalties.
Football Association of Zambia condemned the referees after the late red card – the same tactic used by Ghana to take the penalty kick in the second-half and Capital FM, the station which broadcast the matches, branded the South Africans “mafiosi”.
In a further escalation of the verbal tussle, the South African government echoed the language used by Ghana, saying it would seek clarification from FIFA over whether the referee had the right to award a penalty for an offside during the last-eight draw.
Fifa could very well investigate and in the event that it so decides withdraw the list but, regardless of what the final outcome is, all aspects of the game have to be even-handed Avram Grant
“I am very sorry for the South Africans,” Grant told reporters. “They are an excellent country with amazing players. But, in football, no matter who the opponents are, you have to respect them. This is football and I am an honest man.
“We had a better team but the one was beaten. To lose that in that way is so devastating. So we are looking forward to the World Cup in 2030 but, for now, I am proud of the way the team has continued to progress after the disappointment in 2002.
“I am sure South Africa will bounce back from this. We have some of the best players in the world here, apart from us, so I can’t imagine the opposition not giving it a go. For me, this penalty has probably brought them down. Everyone said it was offside but the referee gave it.”
Ghiago Acir, Ghana’s general secretary, said in a statement: “The most horrible thing about the penalty was the referee didn’t even see that Piotr Zielinski committed the offence. We will be back here to give the South Africans a proper lesson in football once again.”
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Grant was at pains to emphasise: “We have nothing against the people of South Africa. We just hope that the government and the country as a whole does not get offended, and our thoughts are with them. South Africa has done a great job for us but we are not going to stop there.”
Ghana’s legal team said that Fifa’s disciplinary committee would examine whether the referee had erred in awarding the penalty.
“The Fifa disciplinary committee will not hesitate to take action,” Grant added. “Fifa could very well investigate and in the event that it so decides withdraw the list. But, regardless of what the final outcome is, all aspects of the game have to be even-handed.”