Muntari will clasp the hand that ended World Cup dreams
Thursday 17 March 2011
Sulley Muntari will happily shake hands with the man who shattered his World Cup dreams when they come face to face on Wearside this Sunday.
The Sunderland midfielder and his Ghana team-mates looked to be heading into the semi-finals in South Africa last summer when, with the score at 1-1 in the final seconds of extra time, the Uruguay striker Luis Suarez handled on the line to deny Dominic Adiyiah a dramatic winner.
Suarez was dismissed and the Ghanaians were awarded a penalty but, as a whole continent held its breath, Asamoah Gyan fired against the crossbar from the spot, and his side eventually bowed out of the competition after a heart-breaking shoot-out.
Both Muntari and Gyan could meet their World Cup nemesis at the weekend when the South American, a £22.8m January signing from Ajax, arrives at the Stadium of Light with his new club Liverpool for a Premier League match.
However, while Suarez's intervention that night at Johannesburg's Soccer City may have presented Muntari with one of his most painful moments in football, the 26-year-old midfielder, who had earlier scored his side's goal, is not bitter.
Asked yesterday whether he would shake the striker's hand, Muntari said: "Yes, of course. Why not? He is a fantastic player.
"If it was me on the post, that's what I am going to do. I am not going to get it with one hand, I am going to get it with two hands and then I am going to go out and make way for Ghana. Definitely, I am going to shake his hand. It's part of football.
"Personally, I have no bad intention towards him, I haven't any grudge against him. What about if I was the one who got the ball and he didn't win? Am I going to be his enemy?
"It's part of football. But I am not going to be playing against only Suarez, it is going to be Sunderland against Liverpool and we want to win the game, so we have got to make it bad for them here."
Gyan's memories of the game remain understandably raw, but he too insists he has no problem with Suarez. The 25-year-old, who scored in the shoot-out moments after missing his first effort from 12 yards, said: "Every time I see him I just remember what happened at the World Cup. But life goes on.
"I am a good sportsman. People ask me if I am going to shake his hand when he comes to the Stadium of Light, and I say, 'Why not?'
"It's football. I wish him well and he is doing well. He is a young lad who is coming up. He did what he should have done at the World Cup. He took his country to the semi-finals. Life goes on."
The defender John Mensah also played against Uruguay and all three men could line up for Sunderland against Kenny Dalglish's side on Sunday.
Muntari joined his compatriots on Wearside in a loan move from Internazionale in January and, although a deal is in place to make the switch permanent if it suits all parties at the end of the season, he is not even thinking about his future yet.
He said: "Right now, I want to concentrate on Sunderland and these nine weeks that are left. We are doing well at the moment, but not really what we wanted. We want to be in the top six and it's not finished yet, we want to be there.
"After that, I will start thinking about my future, but right now, it is not about me, it's about the team. That's the most important thing."
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