On Tuesday night, Ecuador should have recorded an historic victory.
They had taken an early lead via the penalty spot and were frustrating the hosts. Uruguay had created a couple of good chances, but for the most part they were kept at bay. In the 62nd minute came the controversial moment.
Chucho Benitez beat two Uruguayan defenders at the halfway line and raced in to clear the goal. There was only the keeper, Fernando Muslera, to beat. Benitez tried to round the goalie and would have been able to tap into an empty net, had he not been brought down.
Muslera’s left arm whacked him around his thighs and sent him crashing. It was a stonewall penalty and at least a yellow card. The fact that defender Walter Gargano was in the vicinity may have prevented it from being a last man situation and therefore a red card.
Inexplicably, the Paraguayan official, Carlos Amarilla, blew the call. He gave Benitez a yellow card for diving.
Amarilla may have been afraid to give the visitors their second penalty of the match, which is always a brave thing to do in South America. I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he just missed it, since it is impossible to know what he was thinking. Nevertheless, it was a crucial decision.
If Ecuador had converted the penalty they would almost assuredly have been victorious, particularly if Uruguay had gone down to 10.
Just six minutes later, Edison Cavani tied it and Ecuador had to hold on for the draw. However, the three points should have gone to Ecuador. The two extra points would have vaulted them from third to first and dropped Uruguay from fourth to fifth.
However, the decision may have larger consequences then simply affecting the standings in round eight. Those points may turn out to be crucial in determining who qualifies for the World Cup from South America.