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Forlan stops the music, spurs on Uruguay
By Tony Harper
Suddenly, a World Cup venue fell silent. It took 17 matches, but Diego Forlan of Uruguay brought the incessant sound of the noisy vuvuzelas to a stop on Wednesday with two goals in a 3-0 rout of hosts South Africa at Loftus Versfeld stadium.
He started the scoring with a 25-metre drive which took a flick off defender Aaron Mokoena and dipped in under the crossbar. But the crushing moment, for home fans, came when he stepped up to bury a second-half penalty high into the net after goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune had been given a red card. As he moved to the sideline to be engulfed by jubilant squad members, there was almost no sound emanating from the stands.
"I am so happy," Forlan said.
"I hope this was the real Uruguay tonight."
Forlan made his World Cup finals debut in 2002 and scored one goal, against Senegal, as Uruguay failed to clear a difficult group. That was during a tough time in his career and the difference now could not be more marked.
Back then, Forlan was at Manchester United and more known for horrendous misses than his sharp shooting. He was nicknamed "Diego Forlorn" and became a figure of fun for United fans.
A lot has happened since he fell out with Alex Ferguson, famously ignoring the manager's advice on what studs to wear in a game against Chelsea, missing an easy shot from in front of goal and never playing for the team again.
Forlan was shipped out to Villareal but in 2007 moved to Atletico Madrid as replacement for Fernando Torres, and he's proven a worthy successor. Torres, the Liverpool striker, was misfiring as Spain crashed to defeat earlier on Wednesday, but Forlan was superb for Uruguay.
"He's the type of player who decides games and that's what he did tonight," South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira said.
"It is not only tonight but for five or six years. He has been the top scorer in Spain twice and if you don't watch him you are in trouble. He took a beautiful shot for the first goal tonight - he's a great player."
Forlan overshadowed South Africa's No.10 Steven Pienaar in a lopsided contest and his distribution was nearly flawless.
"We were clear what we had to do tonight," Forlan said.
"We were intense in defence and we stayed calm in the midfield. We have to keep going, however. We have achieved nothing yet."
Uruguay is a two-time winner of the World Cup but those achievements were in 1930 and twenty years later. More recently their World Cup story has been one of early exits or qualifying disasters.
For the past five years Forlan has been one of Europe's top strikers. Perhaps a Golden Shoe beckons if his goals can carry Uruguay deep into the tournament?
"I am not thinking about being the top scorer here. No," Forlan said on Wednesday.
"Goals are important for the team, not for me. If the goals come for the team, that is the main thing."