JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Millions of Africans mourned the cruel and controversial elimination of Ghana, their last hope for World Cup glory, while four more nations stepped up to battle on Saturday for the remaining semi-final berths.
First, Diego Maradona's Argentina face an equally attack-minded Germany in a grudge game in Cape Town. The city's sunny waterfront filled with rival fans ahead of the game, with drum-beating Argentines in the majority.
But for Africans, the day was still full of sorrow at the defeat of Ghana, who were robbed by a cruel, some said unfair, turn of fate from becoming the first continental nation to reach the semi-finals after being beaten by Uruguay on penalties.
Radio phone-in programs were full of Africans saying that Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez cheated on Friday night when he stopped a certain winning goal for Ghana by sticking out his hand on the line in the dying seconds of extra time.
Callers echoed the tearful comment by defender John Pantsil after the game: "It was not a penalty, it was a goal, because he (Suarez) was the last man on the goalline and he saved the ball with the hands."
In the highest drama of the tournament, at Johannesburg's Soccer City, the handball was followed by Asamoah Gyan's missed penalty. Ghana then lost the match in a penalty shootout, causing anguish across Africa.
SUAREZ A HERO?
Gyan, who cried inconsolably on the pitch after the defeat, said the ball had crossed the line before Suarez scooped it out and spoke of the irony under which he would face a lifelong burden of missing the penalty while the Uruguayan striker, who was sent off for the offence, would be lauded as a hero.
Across the Atlantic, however, the win sealed Uruguay's best World Cup run in 40 years and set off an explosion of joy, although there was concern that Suarez would miss the semi-final against the Netherlands next Tuesday, after being red carded.
This would break up his powerful strike partnership with Friday's man of the match Diego Forlan.
Though the villain in African eyes, Suarez was hailed by his team mates -- and back home in his nation of just 3.5 million people -- for what they said was an instinctive reaction.
"It was worth being sent off in this way because at that moment there was no other choice," Suarez said. "I'm very calm."
The outcome sparked a new debate about whether FIFA should change the rules and introduce a system similar to rugby where referees can award a penalty try.
"We didn't deserve to lose in this way," Ghana's coach Milovan Rajevac said, muttering about "sporting injustice."
The Netherlands, who knocked favorites Brazil out of the World Cup in the biggest shock of the tournament on Friday, will play Uruguay in the semi-final on Tuesday.
Old rivals Germany and Argentina have been goading each other in the run up to their game in Cape Town.
Argentina, the tournament's top scorers with 10 goals, want to avenge defeat by Germany on penalties at the last World Cup. That game ended in an ugly brawl.
Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger tried to wind up the Argentines. "If you see how they gesticulate, how they try to influence the referee ... that is not part of the game, that is a lack of respect," he said.
Maradona, trying to cut a more statesmanlike figure these days than during his wilder youth, hit back dismissively: "What's the matter with you, Schweinsteiger, are you nervous?"
On the pitch, Maradona's men have looked happy and settled during four straight wins. But they face their sternest test against a German side also boasting an attacking flair that belies their past reputation for machine-like organization.
Few beyond Paraguay's six million people expect them to have any chance of halting talented European champions Spain in the evening clash at Johannesburg's Ellis Park stadium.
Yet Paraguay have only conceded one goal in open play in their four World Cup games, and Spain are hardly on fire.
A shock result for Paraguay would give them a first World Cup semi-final place. A win for Spain would put them within two games of lifting a trophy that has always eluded them despite fielding some hugely-talented sides over the decades.