Ghana nearly defied expectations to become the first African team to reach the World Cup semi-finals but, after being awarded a penalty with the score at 1-1, Asamoah Gyan hit the bar from the spot with the last kick of extra-time. Agonisingly for an entire continent, Ghana then lost a penalty shoot-out 4-2.

They had their chances in normal time when they briefly led through Sulley Muntari's opening goal, only to see Uruguay hold their nerve in the shoot-out. The South Americans play Holland for the chance to reach the final in this stadium.

Ghana can say they went further than any other African team in this competition, previous quarter-finalists Cameroon and Senegal not having made it to penalties, but that will be scant consolation. Kevin-Prince Boateng missed a close-range header right at the end of the game, before a frantic finale saw Luis Suárez dismissed for handling Dominic Adiyiah's header on the line and Gyan step forward to take the penalty with the last kick of the match.

• Follow the Guardian's World Cup team on Twitter• Sign up to play our daily Fantasy Football game• Stats centre: Get the lowdown on every player• The latest quarter-final news, features and more Gyan was brave enough to take and score Ghana's first penalty in the shoot-out, but to no avail. Once John Mensah and Adiyiah had weak kicks saved by Fernando Muslera, the Uruguayan substitute Sebastien Abreu settled the matter with the coolest of dinks down the middle. It had been quite a game, with two memorable goals from Sulley Muntari and Diego Forlán in normal time.

"It was an incredibly tough match, and we got through without playing brilliantly," Uruguay's coach Oscar Tabárez said. "We just did what we had to do, and I must admit I did not think it would be enough when Ghana got that late penalty. We can play better than that, and we hope to put on a much better performance against the Netherlands."

The Ghana coach was at a loss for words when asked about the Gyan penalty miss. "All I can say it that this is football, we did not deserve to lose in such a way," he said. "It was a cruel way to go out."

Uruguay were expecting a physical challenge from Ghana, and lost no time in showing they could handle themselves. In the 10th minute Egidio Arévalo used his strength to hustle Anthony Annan off the ball, setting up the fi rst chance of the game for Suárez, who shot straight at Richard Kingson. Jorge Fucile overstepped the mark with a foul on Kwadwo Asamoah 10 minutes later, picking up a booking that will force him, with Suárez, to miss the semi-final. Taking advantage of the fact that no one bothered to close him down only a few yards beyond the centre circle, Muntari shot , the ball curling away from the surprised Fernando Muslera at the last moment and finding its way into his bottom corner. Forlán's fourth of the tournament came direct from a free-kick after John Paintsil had gone into the book for a foul on Fucile.

Extra-time was uneventful, until the final two minutes culminating in Gyan's penalty, which were electric. If he had struck his first penalty like he struck his second history might have been made, but it was not to be. One hopes his country and his continent can forgive him. The real villain of the piece was Suárez, who cheated and prospered, or at least his team did.

"It was an instinctive reaction, and he was punished for it," a defensive Tabárez said. "What do you want him to do - He didn't know what was going to happen with the penalty, it looked like it was going to cost us the game. Winners have to be lucky, I cannot say much more."

Former player Abedi Pelé spoke up for Ghana. "I think the ball might have crossed the line before it hit the player's hand, so we were unlucky," he said. "But in the end we lost out on penalty kicks, and we have to take it and get on with the future."

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.