South Africa 0-3 Uruguay – Forlan masterclass leaves Bafana Bafana on the brink

SOUTH AFRICA 0
Khune sent off 76

URUGUAY 3
Forlan 24, 80, A. Pereira 95

Uruguay spoiled the Youth Day celebrations in South Africa with victory in Pretoria, leaving the hosts’ World Cup hopes hanging by a thread. Diego Forlan showed just how to strike the Jabulani ball with a stunning goal in the first half before sealing the points with a late penalty after Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune was sent off. Alvaro Pereira added a late third.

Forlan opened the scoring in style after 24 minutes, working himself space before rocketing in from 30 yards. The shot took a deflection off Aaron Mokoena and flew in off the bar with Khune well beaten. Moments earlier, Luis Suarez had stung Khune’s palms, nutmegging Bongani Khumalo down the side of the area before shooting from a tight angle. Suarez was giving Khumalo a torrid time and he skipped past him after half an hour before firing into the side netting. Katlego Mphela had South Africa’s best chance of the first half, heading wide under pressure from Diego Lugano five minutes before the break from Teko Modise’s cross.

Uruguay had a penalty appeal turned down early in the second half. Suarez went down under challenge from Khumalo but Massimo Busacca said no. The initial contact appeared to be just outside the area but Khumalo then looked to pull him down inside the box. After an hour, Maxi Pereira cut in off the right flank but fired high into the side netting rather than picking out a teammate. Five minutes later, Mphela beat Fernando Muslera to a cross at the near post but he could only direct his header wide. The game was wrapped up 10 minutes from time as Forlan blasted into the roof of the net from the penalty spot after a long delay. Khune saw red for clipping the heels of Suarez in front of goal with no covering defender. Alvaro Pereira made it three deep into stoppage time, heading unmarked in from two yards after Suarez knocked Forlan’s deep cross back across goal.

Forlan was easily Uruguay’s best player in the limp 0-0 draw with France in their opening game and he was the hub of his side’s activity again against the hosts. With Edinson Cavani brought in alongside Luis Suarez in attack, Forlan was awarded greater freedom to roam. Against the French he enjoyed his best success cutting on from the left and he continued on that theme by dropping deep and wide. If spending less time in front of goal limited his effect as a penalty box predator, as seen in his freescoring season for Atletico Madrid, he made up for it with his stunning strike from distance midway through the first half. Taking on the mantle of freekick taker, no matter how far from goal, Forlan showed how far he has come from not making the grade at Manchester United to being the on-field director of his national team at the World Cup.

South Africa were guilty of under-using centre-forward Katlego Mphela. The Uruguayan defence were able to push up the field and tightly mark Mphela with no one in midfield willing to test the success of a ball in behind the defence for him to run on to. With six goals in his last six games for his country, Mphela should have been the target for Bafana Bafana to search for when in possession, but instead there seemed to be a touch of selfishness creeping in from his teammates. Siphiwe Tshabalala was the guiltiest party, operating a shoot-on-sight policy following his stunning goal in the opening game of the World Cup. At the other end, Luis Suarez was also guilty of shooting rather than putting his head up to look for better options, but it was an improvement on his anonymous showing against France. After 49 goals in all competitions this season for Ajax, more would be expected from Suarez but his selfish streak hints at why he has scored so many times at club level.

The penalty award was less than popular with the partisan crowd but there could be little genuine argument with the decision. Suggestions that Suarez was offside were shown to be incorrect by replays and there is no doubt he would have scored if Khune had not made the challenge. Referee Busacca was left with little choice but to dismiss the goalkeeper, a decision that will be sentimentally unpopular but totally correct. South Africa had been fortunate not to have been punished earlier when Khumalo brought down Suarez, although if Busacca had deemed it a foul on that occasion then he may well have given a freekick as Khumalo made two infringements. Forlan deserves a lot of credit for such an emphatic finish from the penalty spot having had to wait several minutes for Moneeb Josephs to come on in goal.

It looks perilous for the hosts as far as their hopes of qualification for the knockout stages goes. Anything less than a win against France will see them eliminated, and even victory may not be enough, depending on other results. No host has ever failed to get past the first round of a World Cup and it is a record Bafana Bafana will not want to break, but the sad truth is they are not good enough as a side. The joyfulness of the occasion got them through their draw with Mexico in the opening match but the cacophony of vuvuzelas are not enough to see them through against opponents as inspired as Forlan and co.

South Africa – Khune – Gaxa, Masilela, Khumalo, Mokoena – Letsholonyane (Moiri 57), Dikgacoi, Pienaar (Josephs 79), Modise, Tshabalala – Mphela

Uruguay – Muslera – Lugano, Godin, Fucile (A. Fernandez 71), M. Pereira – Perez (Gargano 91), Arevalo, A. Pereira – Suarez, Forlan, Cavani (S. Fernandez 89)

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