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FIFA World Cup: Forlan's brilliant brace leaves South Africa on the brink

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diego_forlan.jpgDiego Forlan produced a superb display with two goals to lead his Uruguay side to a comprehensive 3-0 victory against South Africa, leaving the FIFA World Cup hosts in serious danger of a first round exit. The Atletico Madrid striker produced a man of the match display as the Bafana Bafana were completely outplayed at a chilly Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria. Forlan opened the scoring with a brilliant but deflected strike on 24 minutes which silenced the fanatical home support and it was a goal from which the hosts never recovered. He added a second with a wonderfully struck second half penalty before Alvaro Pereira added an injury time third goal from a cross by the excellent Luis Suarez.

The hosts kicked off the second round of matches in front of an expected and partisan crowd in the capital. With all the teams in Group A locked on one point each, both teams knew a win would mean taking a huge step in securing second round qualification.

South Africa coach Carlos Parreira recalled experienced left-back Tsepo Masilela to the starting line-up in the only change. Masilela replaced Lucas Thwala in the second half against Mexico, who had been given a torrid time by Giovani dos Santos, and impressed sufficiently to earn a start tonight. The Brazilian did not tinker with the formation and the team lined up in their familiar 4-5-1 with the likes of Steven Pienaar and Siphiwe Tshabalala expected to break from midfield to support lone striker Katlego Mphela.

Uruguay were without Nicolas Lodeiro, who was sent off in the draw with France, but he was not expected to start anyway. Coach Oscar Tabarez went for three forwards, with highly rated Edison Cavani replacing midfielder Ignacio Gonzalez after manager Tabarez publically stated before the game that his side were going to be more adventurous than against France. Diego Forlan was asked to drop deeper and play behind Cavani and Luis Suarez in a fluid 4-3-3 formation.

The game kicked off to an absolute crescendo of Vuvuzelas but it was the South Americans who were quickly into their stride, pegging the Bafana Bafana back and earning a dangerous looking free kick from 25 yards out. From the resultant set piece Pienaar earned himself the game's first yellow card on five minutes after he was adjudged to have charged out too quickly, but Forlan could do nothing with either free kick slamming both attempts into the sturdy South African wall. For the hosts Tshabalala flashed a 25 yard shot high over the bar on 14 minutes as he aimed to repeat his wonderful goal from the opening game against Mexico. Overall though the opening exchanges lacked any real flow as both sides squandered possession too easily. After 20 minutes neither goalkeeper had yet to make a save as chances were at an absolute minimum but at least the hosts looked to have improved on their first half showing against Mexico where they were at times chasing shadows in the forlorn attempt of regaining possession.

Suarez was already showing more effectiveness after 20 minutes than he did in his entire performance against the French and he brought about the first attempt on target from just inside the penalty area, resulting in Itumeleng Khune making a routine save. But the keeper could do nothing about Forlan's sensational, but ever so slightly fortunate, strike on 24 minutes which gave Uruguay the lead and silenced the vociferous home crowd. The Atletico striker picked up the ball from 30 yards out and with little else on struck a swerving strike which took a deflection on its way into the back of the net. The goal boosted the South Americans and Suarez was quickly becoming a thorn in the South Africa side. On 33 minutes he jinked into the box but found the side netting from a rather acute angle. South Africa were struggling to get a grip on the game and whenever they did look to fashion any type of chance, Mphela found himself far too isolated upfront to make any real impact. Frustrations continued for the hosts when Kagiso Dikgacoi earned a booking for a late lunge which coupled with the yellow card he received in the first game ruled him out of the final group game against France. The first half ended leaving the Bafana Bafana coach Parreira with plenty to ponder as he needed to use all his considerable experience if they were going to avoid defeat.

Suarez picked up exactly where he left off in the first half giving Aaron Mokoena a torrid time down the left side but his dangerous looking cross could not find Forlan and the South Africans scrambled the ball away. Suarez was never far away from the action and on 51 minutes he looked to have earned his side a penalty or at least a free kick on the edge of the box when he was clearly brought down by defender Bongani Khumalo, but the referee was having none of it. If it was not a foul the referee, blundered by not booking the Ajax striker for diving. Uruguay were in complete control and should have doubled their lead on 54 minutes when the excellent Forlan curled in a delightful free kick, but Diego Lugano unmarked in the penalty area missed the ball with his head and the chance went begging.

Bafana Bafana were in desperate need of inspiration and coach Parreira rung the changes by bringing on Surprise Moriri for the ineffectual Letsholonyane. Forlan was though still the man in-charge of proceedings swinging in a wonderful cross from the left only for Edinson Cavani to fluff the chance. Despite the change Mphela was still lacking support with Pienaar still unable to make any telling runs from midfield.

Then on 76 minutes disaster struck the hosts after Suarez was this time correctly adjudged to have been brought down in the are by keeper Khune. Despite the protests, the referee had no choice but to send the shot stopper off. The resultant substitution by the coach to bring new keeper Moneeb Josephs led to a lengthy delay as the Bafana Bafana waited for their fate to be decided. Up stepped Forlan to coolly smash the ball home in to the top left hand corner with a perfect penalty leaving a deathly silence among the home fans. The second goal sparked an exodus from the crowd as suddenly South Africa's World Cup party went horribly flat. The misery was complete for the hosts when in injury time they conceded a third which in all honesty did not flatter the completely dominant South Americans. More good work from the excellent Suarez and he crossed for Pereira to finish from point blank range to cap a miserable night for the hosts.

South Africa now face France knowing that even victory may not be enough to seal qualification leaving them the first hosts in the history of the tournament to exit at the group stages. Mphela was completely isolated and surely the coach will have to consider playing two up front as they were simply not an attacking threat at all. Uruguay on the other hand were superb, with Forlan producing the best individual performance of the tournament so far as he ran the show. Uruguay head into their final group game against Mexico full of confidence and could well seal first place with a victory on 22nd June.

The Teams :

South Africa: Khune, Gaxa, Mokoena, Khumalo, Masilela, Tshabalala, Dikgacoi, Letsholonyane (Moriri 56'), Modise, Pienaar (Josephs 80'), Mphela.

Uruguay: Muslera, Maxi Pereira, Lugano, Godin, Fucile (A Fernandez 71'), Arevalo Rios, Perez (Gargano 90'), Pereira, Suarez, Forlan, Cavani (S Fernandez 89').

Uruguay 3 - 0 South Africa (Forlan 24', 80' (pen), A. Pereira 90')

Check out the Points Table

Also Read: France 0-2 Mexico (Match Report)

File Photograph Copyright: Johann Cardenas

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