Forlan leaves hosts flailing
Uruguay turn on the style to blow away Bafana Bafana
By Peter Fraser. Last Updated: 05/07/10 3:03pm
Forlan: Dictated proceedings in Pretoria
A virtuoso display from Diego Forlan left South Africa in danger of becoming the first host nation to be eliminated from the World Cup group stages after Uruguay earned a 3-0 victory in Pretoria.
The Atletico Madrid striker scored the opening goal of the game in the first half and appeared to have the infamous Jabulani on a string as he dictated the Group A encounter to leave his side within touching distance of the knockout round.
To make matters worse for South Africa, goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune became the first shot-stopper of the 2010 World Cup to be sent off after tripping Luis Suarez to allow Forlan to end any doubts about the result from the penalty spot.
Alvaro Pereira even had the opportunity to add gloss to the scoreline with a third goal in injury time as he headed home a cross from Suarez, who had been expertly found by a raking pass from the faultless Forlan.
For Bafana Bafana, the loss leaves their hopes in severe doubt, with a victory now essential against France next week, while defeat spoilt a national public holiday to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the Soweto uprising.
Unfortunately for the vuvuzelas, which trumpeted at new highs, it cannot be argued that Uruguay did not deserve their three points and Forlan, who continues to represent a transformed man from the one who flopped at Manchester United, was the architect.
The 31-year-old was again partnered in attack by Ajax star Suarez, but Uruguay, apparently intent on adding a cutting edge following their dour stalemate with France, also featured Edinson Cavani in their first XI as part of a three-pronged forward line.
As expected, South Africa manager Carlos Alberto Parreira promoted Tsepo Masilela to his starting left-back over Lucas Thwale, having replaced him in the share of the spoils with Mexico in the competition opener last Friday.
Thankfully, Wednesday had undoubtedly been the day that the World Cup came to life, as Chile's exciting approach to their victory over Honduras preceded Switzerland causing one of the biggest upsets in recent World Cup history against European champions Spain.
South Africa and Uruguay seemed to be chomping at the bit to follow as they began proceedings in breakneck fashion; indeed Steven Pienaar allowed enthusiasm to get the better of him as the Everton man earned a booking for charging down a free-kick after only five minutes.
Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay appeared to have taken a dose of Prozac since their miserable stalemate against the French in Cape Town and Forlan was the man administering the medicine.
South Africa were struggling to contain the Atletico star and Parreira's side were also failing to make their own attacks count, with last week's hero, Siphiwe Tshabalala, going for glory when a pass would have been beneficial after 15 minutes.
Suarez, who spent his time against Les Bleus frequently charging offside, was also demonstrating why he is prolific in the Eredivisie as he evaded the South African defence with quick feet before ruffling goalkeeper Khune's side-netting.
It was entertaining stuff. Both sides were looking to counter-attack at every opportunity, but South Africa were discovering that Uruguay possess a defensive organisation that would be the envy of some of their South American neighbours.
And in the 24th minute Uruguay demonstrated their threat at the other end of the field as they took the lead that their performance deserved.
Forlan unleashed a 25-yard right-footer that dipped off the underside of the helpless Khune's crossbar.
Bafana Bafana would have liked to have blamed the Jabulani for the shifting trajectory of Forlan's flier, but it was a deflection via the shoulder of captain Aaron Mokoena that applied the neccesary top-spin to strand Khune.
Uruguay continued to enjoy the better of proceedings and Suarez again found the wrong side of the netting, while South Africa's frustration was epitomised in a booking for Kagisho Dikgacoi, which will suspend the Fulham midfielder for next Tuesday's meeting with France.
The game continued to follow the same pattern after half-time, as a Suarez cross almost found Cavani, who had been quiet, while the former was later unsuccessfully claiming for a penalty following a coming together with Bongani Khumalo.
Katlego Mphela was denied a chance to draw the teams level when the glove of Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera deflected his header away from goal, but that was as good as it got for South Africa.
With 15 minutes left to play Khune floored Suarez when the forward was through on goal to leave Swiss referee Massimo Busacca with the simple task of brandishing the red card.
After a break of almost five minutes, as substitute goalkeeper Moeneeb Josephs found his kit and laced his boots, Forlan kept his composure to blast his 80th minute spot-kick high into the roof of the net.
There had been little doubt that the excellent striker would leave Josephs, who came on in place of Pienaar, with no chance and the home fans were equally pessimistic about the result as they streamed out of the stadium before Pereira struck.
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