Uruguay’s real hero: Forlan overshadows Cavani and Suarez on 100th cap

A left-footed stunner from the star was a fitting way to mark his century, dragging the Celeste through on an indifferent night for the Liverpool and Napoli stars

By Daniel Edwards | Uruguay Expert

The 2013 Confederations Cup for Uruguay was supposed to be all about the talent of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. Widely believed to be the chosen men in Real Madrid’s summer rebuilding, the tournament was built as an extended audition for one of the pair to seal that dream move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Instead, as the goal-happy pair have faltered in Brazil, it is their veteran attacking colleague who is taking the plaudits. Diego Forlan reached a memorable personal and national milestone on Thursday and his celebration was impeccable.

After the initial onslaught from the Celeste, the Super Eagles regained their composure and fought back through a delicious John Obi Mikel goal. Looking resolute in defence and dangerous up front, Nigeria appeared to have the momentum to secure victory.
Diego Forlan’s emphatic second half strike deflated the team, but this side are made of stern stuff, and there were faint signs that the spirit of the Cup of Nations would be summoned once more. But it was not to be, and Stephen Keshi’s remarkable 18-match unbeaten run in competitive games came to an end.
The unfortunate reality is that with defeat the easiest route out of Group B has disappeared. Nigeria now face the unenviable task of beating mighty Spain in order to progress — a tall order even for Keshi and his African champions.

Ed Dove | Nigeria Expert

While Suarez struggled to impose himself against a rapid, physical Nigerian defence and Cavani put in one of his worst displays in recent memory, 100-cap Diego came to the fore. At 34, Forlan does not have the same mobility as he once exhibited in Spain with Atletico Madrid, but he makes up for it with his brain – and, of course, those magical feet.

The ex-Colchonero and Inter man, currently plying his trade with Porto Alegre’s Internacional, transformed a faltering Celeste against Spain, although not enough to avoid a 2-1 defeat. Against Nigeria, in a must-win clash, the forward came to the rescue in the moments when Uruguay needed him most.

A teasing cross into the six-yard box caught the Super Eagles napping, allowing Diego Lugano to steal in and open the scoring just when the Africans were starting to dominate and find holes in a Uruguay team lacking mobility inside their own half. He also came up with the goods to finish off one of the few occasions when Cavani and Suarez showed a glimpse of their real quality.

The Liverpool man had broken on the counter from the halfway line, and immediately looked for Cavani who had few options to advance the play. His ball to Forlan left the blonde bombshell in space, but with little goal to aim at. It did not matter. Forlan struck perfectly with the left foot to beat Vincent Enyeama at the near post, restoring the Uruguay advantage following John Obi Mikel’s equaliser.

The 2-1 victory, which could have been far easier had Cavani not squandered two golden chances laid on by the marvellous veteran, puts Uruguay in the driving seat to advance to the Confederations semi-finals. A win against Group B strugglers Tahiti, who have conceded 16 goals in their opening two fixtures, would almost certainly put the Celeste through, unless Nigeria can upset all odds and gain victory over the imperious Spanish side.

Forlan too must have allowed himself at least a wry smile in wresting back Uruguay’s goalscoring record. Luis Suarez’s brilliant free kick against Spain had drawn the players level for all of four days, but with his 34th strike against Nigeria the elder statesman of the Uruguay attack will go into the final Group B match with his top scorer status restored.

A seasoned performer like Diego will be taking nothing for granted at the weekend. He and all of Oscar Tabarez’s team of consummate professionals know that they have to approach the match against the Pacific Islanders with an open mind, making sure they do the job and assure their place in the next round. But, for now, the Internacional man deserves to soak up all the plaudits.

No other Uruguay international has reached 100 caps in the nation’s history and Forlan proved once more that, even if his illustrious colleagues misfire, he has the talent and focus to lead the Celeste out of a tight spot and on to victory.

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